Feb 29, 2024 - Business

New rules would protect disabled air travelers

Illustration of a golden airplane wing pin engraved with the accessibility icon.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Logo: The Accessible Icon Project

Newly proposed federal rules would boost protections for air passengers who use wheelchairs.

Why it matters: Wheelchair users have long been fighting for changes that would better ensure their dignity when traveling by air.

Driving the news: The proposed Department of Transportation (DOT) rules would classify an airline's mishandling of wheelchairs and other assistive devices as a violation of the Air Carrier Access Act, which forbids airlines from discriminating against passengers because of a disability.

  • That would make it easier for DOT to penalize airlines when a traveler's wheelchair or other device is broken.
  • Airlines would also be required to get a delayed wheelchair to a traveler's destination within 24 hours "by whatever means possible," per DOT.

What they're saying: "There are millions of Americans with disabilities who do not travel by plane because of inadequate airline practices and inadequate government regulation, but now we are setting out to change that," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

  • "Today's announcement is a testament to the power of collective advocacy and reinforces our resolve to create a more inclusive world for all," Donald Wood, president and CEO of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said in a separate statement.

What's next: The proposal is up for public comment for 60 days.

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