On October 5, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, H.R. 302, was signed into law. This five-year reauthorization of the FAA also includes several provisions to enhance the travel experience for people with disabilities.
“This opens up a whole world of travel to me,” said MS activist Scott Bartholomew (Ohio).
“I live with multiple sclerosis and depend on mobility devices, but the fear of damaging my mobility device has been the biggest deterrent to me when choosing whether to travel by air. I’m extremely pleased the FAA Reauthorization Act requires large domestic airlines to report the number of wheelchairs and scooters that get damaged during the flying process. I’m pleased to see a number of provisions in the bill that will begin to address the difficulties people with disabilities encounter in air travel and in transiting airport security.”
In particular, the critical provisions to enhance the travel experience for people with disabilities (Sections 431-441) include:
- Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights from the Department of Transportation
- An Advisory Committee on the Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities
- A study on in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems
- Increased civil penalties for damage to a passenger with a disability or his/her mobility aid
- A requirement for large domestic airlines to report on the number of wheelchairs and scooters enplaned and subsequently damaged
- A revision of training for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers, which will be done in consultation with disability and veterans’ organizations for standard screening and precheck
- TSA reporting requirements about passengers with disabilities, most notably in reporting mechanical chairs that are damaged when placed below in storage
“Almost every year when nearly 300 MS activists travel to Washington, DC to meet with Congress, members of our group share how they’ve watched in fear as their mobility equipment was loaded on a plane and how they’ve had to assess damage to it on arrival,” said Bari Talente, Executive Vice President of Advocacy for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “In many cases, this equipment is personalized to meet an individual’s needs and when it's damaged, that also damages one’s ability to get around and someone’s overall health.”
“We thank Congress for listening to people with disabilities and taking important steps to ease the added difficulties and stress that air travel needlessly brings,” said Talente.
Bartholomew adds, “I greatly appreciate the efforts of the leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees who listened to the concerns of people with disabilities to make sure this measure addresses the difficulties people with disabilities encounter in air travel and in transiting airport security.”
The Society has worked with the Paralyzed Veterans of America to represent millions of passengers with disabilities who travel by air each year and applauds Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) for introducing the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act which helped to push the conversation on these disability-related provisions related to air travel.