FAA Reauthorization Act
In 2018, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act with AWU’s proposed amendment that requires a study into wheelchair securement systems. It also contains a rule passed by Sen. Tammy Duckworth that now requires airlines to report the number of wheelchairs that they break each year. In 2019, 10,548 wheelchairs were lost, damaged, destroyed, or stolen across all airlines. This reporting will hold airlines accountable for their mishandling of wheelchairs, hopefully preventing many damages.
Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2021 (ACAAA)
While the Reauthorization Act of 2018 was a great leap forward, we must push further to strengthen protections under the ACAA. The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (ACAAA) of 2021 was introduced to strengthen the enforcement of the ACAA and ensure that individuals with disabilities are treated with dignity while traveling by air. Specifically, the Amendments would:
- Require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to refer complaints to the Department of Justice so that individuals have the ability to seek redress through the court system; this is known as a private right of action.
- Require the DOT to levy civil penalties on airlines for committing violations.
- Ensure new aircrafts are designed to accommodate all individuals by requiring airlines to meet accessibility standards. This includes ensuring that there are accessible seating accommodations, safe boarding and deplaning, and visually accessible announcements.
You can read the full text of the legislation here. We are also working with Congress to expand the language of the legislation to include the implementation of a wheelchair space as part of “suitable seating accommodations”. You can urge your local Representative to support the Amendments by calling their office or sending an email. Tell them about your difficult experiences when traveling by air, or the challenging experiences of your family members or friends. Don’t know who your Representative is? Enter your zipcode and locate their website.
Emergency Escape Plans
AWU is also working on improving emergency escape plans so that they include the interests of individuals with disabilities and guarantee a safe exit in the case of an emergency landing. The last study on emergency escape plans for individuals with disabilities was conducted over 40 years ago on an aircraft that is no longer in use. We demand that a new study be conducted that reflects the current needs of the disability community. We also urge that ADAPTS slings be included on every aircraft to assist with exiting. Contact your Representative about this issue so that they are aware of the urgent need to undertake a new study.