ACAAA and Air Travel Survey

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on November 01, 2022 # Advocacy and Policy

Airplane in the skyIt’s been all over the news lately. Men and women with disabilities deboard an airplane only to discover that the wheelchair they depend on for mobility and independence has been damaged along the way. In May of 2021, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) tweeted a video of a woman whose chair was damaged, saying, “I know from personal experience that when an airline damages a wheelchair, it is more than a simple inconvenience. It was like taking my legs away from me again.”

But broken wheelchairs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to air travel issues for Americans with disabilities. Despite passage of the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) in October of 1986, a law which requires air carriers to provide passengers with disabilities the opportunity to preboard if additional time or assistance is needed, timely assistance in boarding and deplaning, proper stowage of assistive devices, and appropriate seating accommodations, there is much more to be done and Congress has a vital role to play in bringing air travel access into the 21st century.

That is why the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has been working with other disability rights groups like Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) to push Congress to pass the Air Carriers Access Amendments Act (ACAAA).

The ACAAA (H.R. 1696/S. 642) would do several things to strengthen equitable access to air travel. Specifically, it would allow a private right of action, as most other civil rights laws do, which would finally give passengers with disabilities appropriate redress of their grievances. The ACAAA would also ensure new airplanes are designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities by requiring airlines to meet defined accessibility standards. These standards will address safe and effective boarding and deplaning, visually accessible announcements, seating accommodations, lavatories, and better stowage options for assistive devices.

For the past two years, we have called on our advocates to urge their Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 1696. That call to action is still live and we encourage everyone who supports accessible air travel to lend their voice to this fight. We hope to gain as many cosponsors as possible on this important legislation. The more support we garner, the easier it can be to move through the process.

Also, to learn more about the current experience of passengers with disabilities in air travel, disability policy advocates designed and promoted an informal online survey. The purpose of the survey was to gather information to inform the fight to improve the Air Carrier Access Act and make air travel better for all people with disabilities. From October 4-December 6, 2021, over 1,260 individuals responded to the survey. Some questions were not applicable to some travelers and their responses were not included in the data to show a more accurate picture of the experience of affected travelers.

If you are interested in learning more about the survey results, please view them here.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.