Upon completing this unit you should be able to:
1. Define the Air Carrier Access Act and why it is needed.
2. Discuss what a person with disabilities can do prior to a trip.
3. Describe when advance notice can be required.
4. Explain what is required at the airport.
5. Identify procedures to make travel easier for an individual with disabilities.
6. Explain the process for getting on and off the plane.
7. Describe the requirements for transporting battery-powered wheelchairs.
9. Discuss the compliance procedure.
For years, access to the nations air travel system for persons with disabilities was an area of substantial dissatisfaction, with both passengers and the airline industry recognizing the need for major improvement. In 1986 Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act, requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop new regulations that ensure that persons with disabilities will be treated without discrimination in a way consistent with the safe carriage of all passengers. These regulations were published in March 1990.
The Air Carrier Access rules represent a major stride forward in improving air travel for persons with disabilities. The rules clearly explain the responsibilities of the traveler, the carriers, the airport operators, and contractors, who collectively make up the system that moves more than one million passengers per day. (These rules do not apply to foreign airlines.)
The Air Carrier Access rules are designed to minimize the special problems that travelers with disabilities face as they negotiate their way through the nations complex air travel system from origin to destination. This is achieved:
The New Traveling Environment. The Air Carrier Access rules sweep aside many restrictions that formerly discriminated against passengers with disabilities:
There are a few exceptions:
There are new procedures for resolving disputes:
Getting Advance Information About the Aircraft.
Travelers with disabilities must be provided information upon request concerning facilities and services available to them. When feasible this information will pertain to the specific aircraft scheduled for a specific flight. Such information includes:
Normally, advance information about the aircraft will be requested by phone. Any carrier that provides telephone service for the purpose of making reservations or offering general information must provide comparable services for hearing-impaired individuals, utilizing telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs), or text telephones (TTs). The TTs shall be available during the same hours that the general public has access to regular phone service. The response time to answer calls on the TT line shall also be equivalent to the response time available to the general public. Charges for the call, if any, shall be the same as charges made to the general public.
When Advance Notice Can be
Airlines may not require passengers with disabilities to provide advance notice of their intent to travel or of their disability except as provided below. Nonetheless, letting the airline know in advance how they can help a person with a disability will generally result in a smoother trip.
Carriers may require up to 48 hours advance notice and one hour advance check-in from a person with a disability who wishes to receive any of the following services:
Where a service is required by the rule, the airline must ensure that it is provided if appropriate notice has been given and the service requested is available on that particular flight. If a passenger does not meet advance notice or check-in requirements, carriers must make a reasonable effort to accommodate the requested service, providing this does not delay the flight.
If a passenger with a disability provides the required notice but is required to fly on another carrier (for example, if the flight is canceled), the original carrier must, to the maximum extent feasible, provide assistance to the second carrier in furnishing the accommodation requested by the individual.
It must be recognized that even when a passenger has requested information in advance on the accessibility features of the scheduled aircraft, carriers sometimes have to substitute a different aircraft at the last minute for safety, mechanical or other reasons. It must also be recognized that the substitute aircraft may not be as fully accessible--a condition that may prevail for a number of years.
On board wheelchairs must be available on many aircraft, but it will take a number of years before movable aisle armrests are available on all aircraft with over 30 seats. Similarly, while accessible lavatories must be built into all new wide-bode aircraft, they will be put into existing aircraft only when such aircraft are undergoing a major interior refurbishment.
When Attendants Can Be Required.
Carriers may require the following individuals to be accompanied by an attendant:
The airline can choose an attendant in a number of ways. It could designate an off duty employee who happened to be traveling on the same flight to act as the attendant. The carrier or the passenger with a disability could seek a volunteer from among other passengers on the flight to act as the attendant. The carrier could provide a free ticket to an attendant of the passengers choice for that flight segment. In the end, however, a carrier is not required to find or furnish an attendant.
The attendant would not be required to provide personnel service to the passenger with a disability other than to provide assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation. This is in contrast to the case of the passenger that usually travels accompanied by a personal attendant, who would provide the passenger whatever services he or she requests.
If there is not a seat available on the flight for an attendant, and as a result a person with a disability holding a confirmed reservation is denied travel on the flight, the passenger with a disability is eligible for denied boarding compensation.
For purposes of determining whether a seat is available for an attendant, the attendant shall be deemed to have checked in at the same time as the person with the disability.
Airport Accessibility. Until recently, only those airport facilities designed, constructed, or renovated by or for a recipient of federal funds had to comply with federal accessibility standards. Even at federally-assisted airports, not all facilities and activities were required to be accessible. Examples are privately-owned ground transportation and concessions selling goods or services to the public. As a result of the Air Carrier Access rules, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and implementing regulations, these privately-owned facilities must also be made accessible.
In general, airports under construction or being refurbished must comply with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and other regulations governing accessibility in accordance with a timetable established in the ADA. Thus, while there are still many changes to be made, the accessibility of most airports is improving. With few exceptions, the following services should be available in all air carrier terminals within the next few years:
Moving Through the Airport. To make travel easier for an individual with a disability, major airports will be required to make the following services accessible under new rules being put into effect in the next several years:
All carrier facilities must currently include one accessible route from an airport entrance to ticket counters, boarding locations and baggage handling areas. These routes must minimize any extra distance that wheelchair users must travel compared to other passengers to reach these facilities. Outbound and inbound baggage facilities must provide efficient baggage handling for individuals with a disability, and these facilities must be designed and operated so as to be accessible. There must be appropriate signs to indicate the location of accessible services.
Carriers cannot restrict the movements of persons with disabilities in terminals or require them to remain in a holding area or other location while awaiting transportation and other assistance.
Curbside baggage check-in (available only for domestic flights) may be helpful to passengers with a disability.
Passenger Information. Carriers must ensure that individuals with disabilities, including those with vision and hearing impairments, have timely access to the same information provided to other passengers, including (but not limited to) information on:
This information must be made available upon request. A crew member is not required to interrupt his or her immediate safety duties to supply such information.
A copy of the Air Carrier Access rules must be made available by carriers for inspection upon request at each airport.
As previously noted, any carrier that provides telephone service for the purpose of making reservations or offering general information shall also provide TT service. This service for people with speech and hearing impairments must be available during the same hours that the general public has access to regular phone service, with equivalent response times and charges.
Security Screening. An individual with a disability must undergo the same security screening as any other member of the traveling public.
If an individual with a disability is able to pass through the security system without activating it, the person shall not be subject to special screening procedures. Security personnel are free to examine an assistive device that they believe is capable of concealing a weapon or other prohibited item. If an individual with a disability is not able to pass through the system without activating it, the person will be subject to further screening in the same manner as any other passenger activating the system.
Security screening personnel at some airports may employ a hand held device that will allow them to complete the screening without having to physically search the individual. If this method is still unable to clear the individual and a physical search becomes necessary, then at the passengers request, the search must be done in private.
If the passenger requests a private screening in a timely manner, the carrier must provide it in time for the passenger to board the aircraft. Such private screening will not be required, however, to a greater extent or for any different reason than for other passengers. However, they may take more time.
Medical Certificates. A medical certificate is a written statement from the passengers physician saying that the passenger is capable of completing the flight safely without requiring extraordinary medical care.
A disability is not sufficient grounds for a carrier to request a medical certificate. Carriers shall not require passengers to present a medical certificate unless the person:
If the medical certificate is necessitated by a communicable disease, it must say that the disease or infection will not be communicable to other persons during the normal course of flight, or it shall state any conditions or precautions that would have to be observed to prevent transmission of the disease or infection to others.
Carriers cannot mandate separate treatment for an individual with a disability except for reasons of safety or to prevent the spread of a communicable disease or infection.
Communicable Diseases. As part of their responsibility to their passengers, air carriers try to prevent the spread of infection or a communicable disease on board an aircraft. If a person who seeks passage has an infection or disease that would be transmittable during the normal course of a flight, and that has been deemed so by a federal public health authority knowledgeable about the disease or infection, then the carrier may:
If the individual has a contagious disease but presents a medical certificate describing conditions or precautions that would prevent the transmission of the disease during the flight, the carrier shall provide transportation unless it is not feasible to act upon the conditions set forth in the certificate to prevent transmission of the disease.
The Safety Briefing. FAA regulations require that carrier personnel provide a safety briefing to all passengers before takeoff. This briefing is for the passengers own safety and is intended for that purpose only.
Carrier personnel may offer an individual briefing to a person whose disability precludes him or her from receiving the information presented in the general briefing. The individual briefing must be provided as inconspicuously and discretely as possible. Most carriers choose to offer this briefing before other passengers board the flight if the passenger with a disability chooses to pre-board the flight. A carrier can present the special briefing at any time before takeoff that does not interfere with other safety duties.
Carriers may not quiz the individual about the material presented in the briefing, except to the same degree they quiz all passengers about the general briefing. A carrier cannot take any adverse action against the passenger on the basis that, in the carriers opinion, the passenger did not understand the safety briefing.
Safety briefings presented to passengers on video screens must have an open caption or an insert for a sign language interpreter, unless this would interfere with the video or would not be large enough to be seen. This requirement takes effect as old videos are replaced in the normal course of business.
Handling of Mobility Aids and Assistive Devices. To the extent consistent with various FAA safety regulations, passengers may bring on board and use ventilators and respirators, powered by non-spillable batteries. Assistive devices brought into the cabin by an individual with a disability shall not count toward a limit on carry-on items.
Persons using canes and other assistive devices may stow these items on board the aircraft, consistent with safety regulations. Carriers shall permit passengers to stow wheelchairs or component parts of a mobility device under seats, or in overhead compartments.
Carriers must permit one folding wheelchair to be stowed in a cabin closet, or other approved priority storage area, if the aircraft has such areas and stowage can be accomplished in accordance with FAA safety regulations. If the passenger using it pre-boards, stowage of the wheelchair takes priority over the carry-on items brought on by other passengers enplaning at the same airport (including passengers in another cabin, such as First Class), but not over items of passengers who boarded at previous stops.
When stowed in the cargo compartment, wheelchairs and other assistive devices must be given priority over cargo and baggage, and must be among the first items unloaded. Mobility aids shall be returned to the owner as close as possible to the door of the aircraft (consistent with DOT hazardous materials regulations) or at the baggage claim area, in accordance with whatever request was made by the passenger before boarding.
If the priority storage accorded to mobility aids prevents another passengers baggage from being carried, the carrier shall make its best efforts to ensure the other baggage arrives within four hours.
On certain aircraft, some assistive devices will have to be disassembled to be transported (e.g., electric wheelchairs, other devices too large to fit in the cabin or in the cargo hole in one piece). When assistive devices are disassembled, carriers are obligated to return them to passengers in the condition that the carrier received them (e.g., assembled).
Carriers must transport battery-powered wheelchairs, except where cargo comportment size or aircraft airworthiness considerations do not permit doing so. Electric wheelchairs must be treated in accordance with both DOT regulations for handling hazardous materials, and DOT Air Carrier Access regulations, which differentiate between spillable and not-spillable batteries:
The carrier may remove a particular unmarked battery from the mobility aid if there is reasonable doubt that it is non-spillable, and it cannot be loaded, stored, secured and unloaded always in an upright position. An across-the -board assumption that all batteries are spillable is not consistent with the Air Carrier Access rules.
A non-spillable battery may be removed where it appears to be damaged and leakage of battery fluid is possible.
Determining the Battery Type. Compliance with DOT rules on the marking of non-spillable batteries is sufficient to identify a battery as non-spillable for this purpose. In the absence of such markings, carrier personnel are responsible for determining, on a case-by-case basis, whether a battery is non-spillable, taking into account information provided by the user of the wheelchair.
Carriers may not require a passenger with a disability to sign a waiver of liability for damage or loss of wheelchairs or other assistive devices. The carrier may make note of any preexisting defect to the device.
On domestic trips, carriers maximum liability for loss, damage or delay in returning assistive devices is twice the liability limit established for passengers luggage under DOT regulations. As of July 1995, the current limit for liability on assistive devices is $2,500 per passenger (i.e., two times the $1,250 limit for luggage).
This expanded liability does not extend to international trips, where the Warsaw Convention applies. For most international trips (including the domestic portions of an international trip) the current liability is approximately $9.07 per pound for checked baggage and $400 per passenger for unchecked baggage.
Boarding and Deplaning. Properly trained service personnel who are knowledgeable on how to assist individuals with a disability in boarding and existing must be available if needed. Equipment used for assisting passengers must be kept in good working condition.
Boarding and exiting most medium and large-size jet aircraft is almost always by way of level boarding ramps or mobile lounges, which must be accessible. If ramps or mobile lounges are not use, a lifting device (other than a device used for freight) must be provided to assist persons with limited mobility safely on and off the aircraft.
Lifting devices have recently become available for certain small commuter aircraft. The Department of Transportation is evaluating what approaches are viable to ensure that these devices become widely available.
Carriers do not have to hand-carry passengers on and off aircraft with fewer than 30 seats, if this is the only means of getting the person on and off the aircraft. Carrier employees may do so on a strictly voluntary basis.
In order to provide some personal assistance and extra time, the air carrier may offer a passenger with a disability, or any passenger that may be in need of assistance, the opportunity to pre-board the aircraft. The passenger has the option to accept or decline the offer.
On connecting flights, the delivering carrier is responsible for providing assistance to the individual with a disability in reaching his or her connecting flight.
Carriers cannot leave a passenger unattended for more than 30 minutes in a ground wheelchair, boarding chair, or other device in which the passenger is not independently mobile.
For aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats:
At least one haft of the armrests
on aisle seats shall be moveable to facilitate transferring passengers
from on board wheelchairs to the aisle seat.
Priority space in the cabin
shall be provided for stowage of at least one passengers folding
wheelchair. (This rule also applies to aircraft of smaller size, if there
is a closet large enough to accommodate a folding wheelchair).
At lease one accessible lavatory
(with door locks, call buttons, grab bars, and lever faucets) shall be
available which will have sufficient room to allow a passenger using an
on board wheelchair to enter, maneuver, and use the facilities with the
same degree of privacy as other passengers.
There is an accessible lavatory,
An aircraft delivered before April 1992 does not have to be made accessible until its interior is refurbished. At that time the relevant accessibility features shall be added aisle armrests. This shall be done on smaller aircraft to the extent it is not inconsistent with structural, weight, balance, operational or interior configuration limitations.
Similarly, all aircraft undergoing replacement of cabin interior elements or lavatories must meet the accessibility requirements for the affected features, including cabin storage space for a folding wheelchair, and an on board wheelchair if there is an accessible lavatory (unless prohibited by structural, weight, balance, or configuration limitations).
Seat Assignments. An individual with a disability cannot be required to sit in a particular seat or be excluded from any seat, except as provided by FAA safety rules, such as the FAA Exit Row Seating rule. For safety reasons, that rule limits seating in exit rows to those persons with the most potential to be able to operate the emergency exit and help in an aircraft evacuation. The carrier cannot deny transport, but may deny specific seats to travelers who are less than age 15 or lack capacity to act without an adult, or who lack sufficient mobility, strength, dexterity, vision, hearing, speech, reading or comprehension abilities to perform emergency evacuation functions. The carrier may also deny specific seats to persons with a condition or responsibilities, such as caring for small children, who might prevent the person from performing emergency evacuation functions, or cause harm to themselves in doing so.
A traveler with a disability may also be denied certain seats if:
The passengers involuntary
behavior is such that it could compromise safety of the flight and the
safety problem can be mitigated to an acceptable degree by assigning the
passenger a specific seat rather than refusing service.
In each instance, carriers are obligated to offer alternative seat locations.
Service Animals. Carriers must permit dog guides or other service animals with appropriate identification to accompany an individual with a disability on a flight. Identification may include cards or other documentation, presence of a harness or markings on a harness, tags, or the credible verbal assurance of the passenger using the animal.
If carriers provide special information to passengers concerning the transportation of animals outside the continental United States, they must provide such information to all passengers with animals on such flights, not simply to passengers with disabilities who are traveling with service animals.
Carriers must permit a service animal to accompany a traveler with a disability to any seat in which the person sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain clear in order to facilitate an emergency evacuation, in which case the passenger will be assigned another seat.
In-Cabin Service. Air carrier personnel shall assist a passenger with a disability to:
Move to and from seats as a
part of the boarding and exiting process.
Charges for Accommodations Prohibited. Carriers cannot impose charges for providing facilities, equipment, or services to an individual with a disability that are required by DOTs Air Carrier Access regulations. They may charge for optional services, however, such as oxygen and accommodation of stretchers.
Personnel Training. Carriers must provide training on passengers with disabilities for all personnel who deal with the traveling public. This training shall be appropriate to the duties of each employee and will be designed to help the employee understand the special needs of these travelers, and how they can be accommodated quickly, safely, and with dignity. The training must familiarize employees with:
The Department of Transportations
rules on the provision of air service to an individual with a disability.
Each carrier must have at least one Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) available at each airport during times of scheduled carrier operations. The CRO can be made available by telephone.
Any passenger having a complaint of alleged violations of the Air Carrier Access rules is entitled to communicate with a CRO, who has authority to resolve complaints on behalf of the carrier.
If a CRO receives a complaint before the action of carrier personnel has resulted in violation of the Air Carrier Access rules, the CRO must take or direct other carrier personnel to take action to ensure compliance with the rule. The CRO, however, does not have authority to countermand a safety-based decision made by the pilot-in-command of an aircraft.
If the CRO agrees with the passenger that a violation of the rule occurred, he must provide the passenger a written statement summarizing the facts and what steps if any, the carrier proposes to take in response to the violation.
If the CRO determines that no violation has occurred, he/she must provide the passenger a written statement summarizing the facts and reasons for the decision or conclusion.
The written statement must inform the interested party of his or her right to pursue DOT enforcement action if the passenger is still not satisfied with the response. If possible, the written statement by the CRO must be given to the passenger at the airport; otherwise, it shall be sent to the passenger within 10 days of the incident.
Carriers shall establish a procedure for resolving written complaints alleging violations of any Air Carrier Access rule provision. If a passenger chooses to file a written complaint, the complaint should note whether the passenger contacted the CRO at the time of the alleged violation, including the CROs name and the date of contact, if available. It should include any written responses received from the CRO. A carrier shall not be required to respond to a complaint postmarked more than 45 days after the date of an alleged violation.
A carrier must respond to a written complaint within 30 days after receiving it. The response must state the airlines position on the alleged violation, and may also state whether and why no violation occurred, or what the airline plans to do about the problem. The carrier must also inform the passenger of his or her right to pursue DOT enforcement action.
Any person believing that a carrier has violated any provision of the rule may contact the following office:
Department of Transportation
Summary - From the DOT Web Site
Equal Access to Transportation
1. Which one (1) of the following statements BEST define the purpose
of an air carrier Complaints Resolution Official (CRO)?
A. Acts as legal council for the carrier ONLY when a person with
a disability is refused transportation.
B. A specially trained flight attendant that MUST be on board any
carrier that includes passengers with disabilities.
C. An air carrier employee whose sole function is to assign seats
to passengers with disabilities.
D. Resolves disagreements which may arise between the air carrier
and passengers with disabilities.
2. Which one (1) of the following statements regarding air carrier
restrictions is TRUE?
A. A carrier may refuse transportation to a passenger solely on
the basis of a disability.
B. Air carriers may limit the number of individuals with
disabilities on a particular flight.
C. Airline personnel are not required to carry a mobility-impaired
person onto the aircraft by hand.
D. Some trip information that is made available to other
passengers does not have to be made available to passengers
3. Which one (1) of the following persons with a disability does
NOT have to be accompanied by an attendant when flying on an
A. A person traveling on a stretcher or in an incubator.
B. A person in a wheelchair that is not electric-powered.
C. A person, because of a mental disability, is unable to
comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instruction
from carrier personnel.
D. A person with a mobility impairment so severe that the
individual is unable to assist in his or her own evacuation
from the aircraft.
4. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) does NOT require which
one (1) of the following to be available in air carrier terminals
within the next few years?
A. Accessible parking near the terminal.
B. Accessible restrooms and drinking fountains.
C. Special curbside check-in ONLY for passengers with
D. Signs indicating the location of specific facilities and
services other than medical aid facilities or travelers
5. Which two (2) of the following will be required by the airports
to make travel easier for an individual with a disability?
A. Holding areas for passengers with disabilities.
B. A single baggage claim area exclusive for passengers with
C. People movers and moving walkways within and between terminals
D. Shuttle vehicles, owned or operated by airports, transporting
people between parking lots and terminal buildings.
6. Which one (1) of the following new aircraft delivered after
April 1992 must provide at least one accessible lavatory
(with door locks, call buttons, grab bars, and lever faucets)
to allow a passenger using an on board wheelchair to enter,
maneuver, and use the facilities with the same degree of privacy
as other passengers?
A. Aircraft with 100 or more seats.
B. Aircraft with more than one aisle.
C. ONLY aircraft approved for international flights.
D. ALL aircraft equipped with moveable armrests on aisle seats.
7. Which two (2) of the following statements regarding
battery-powered wheelchairs is TRUE?
A. The Air Carrier Access rules support an across-the-board
assumption that all batteries are spillable.
B. Carriers must transport battery-powered wheelchairs, except
where cargo comportment size or aircraft airworthiness
considerations do not permit doing so.
C. Electric wheelchairs are not treated in accordance with both
DOT regulations for handling hazardous materials and DOT Air
Carrier Access regulations.
D. If the chair is powered by a spillable battery, the battery
must be removed unless the wheelchair can be loaded, stored,
secured, and unloaded always in an upright position.
8. Carriers shall establish a procedure for resolving written
complaints and must respond to a written complaint within ________
days after receiving it.
Airlines are working to incorporate the new regulations into their operations and to improve communications with the traveling public. Please review the following as a good example of efforts by one airline to facitiate travel for customers with disabilities. Congratulations for completing this unit.