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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

DOT Air Travel Meeting: Questions for Passengers with Mobility Disabilities

March 14, 2022

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) air travel meeting on Mar. 24 will be divided into two (2) sessions. The first session will take place in the morning at 10:15 a.m. EDT, with opening remarks, presentations on the regulations, and the current state of affairs provided by DOT, advocates for people with disabilities, industry stakeholders, and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) Advisory Committee. The second session will take place in the afternoon, with a Q&A to help inform DOT on appropriate next steps for addressing air travel concerns of wheelchair users.

The DOT wants your answers to the questions on the below four (4) topic areas. Please review carefully and pick out specific questions that most directly affect you. Once you are finished, submit your question(s) and response(s) to FlyingWithWheelchairs@dot.gov by March 21. If you wish to speak at the meeting, be sure to also include your name and request to talk about the question during the meeting.

TOPIC NO. 1: Challenges Encountered During Air Travel by Wheelchair Users and the Impacts of Unsafe or Inadequate Assistance

  • What are the most significant problems that people with disabilities are currently experiencing when traveling by air with wheelchairs?
  • How frequently do people with disabilities who use wheelchairs experience problems when traveling by air and what is the severity of physical harm or damages that can result?
  • How do these problems affect the ability or willingness of people with disabilities to travel by air?
  • What are the root causes of the problems associated with traveling by air with wheelchairs?
  • What are the wait times for assistance to deplane/disembark aircraft for people who use wheelchairs? • What changes to air travel are needed to address the problems encountered by people with disabilities who use wheelchairs?

TOPIC NO. 2: Actions to Prevent or Minimize Bodily Injury and Damaged, Delayed, and Lost Wheelchairs

  • At what point(s) during the handling process are wheelchairs damaged and what are the most common types of damage?
  • What financial costs (medical, transportation, lost wages, etc.), if any, do people who use wheelchairs incur due to damage to their wheelchair during air travel?
  • What best practices or procedures (e.g. disassembly or loading techniques) could be implemented by airlines to reduce the risk of damaging a wheelchair?
  • What additional information from passengers and device manufacturers would be useful to airlines to aid their employees who handle assistive devices?
  • In circumstances where the passenger has not requested the return of the wheelchair at the baggage claim area, what are the wait times for wheelchairs to be returned to passengers at the gate?
  • What are the root causes of wheelchairs becoming delayed or lost during air transportation?
  • What improvements can be made to airline procedures to prevent or minimize the likelihood that a wheelchair is delayed or lost?
  • Does hands-on training for employees who handle mobility aid devices lead to fewer cases of mishandled wheelchairs and, if so, what are the costs and benefits of hands-on training programs?

TOPIC NO. 3: Actions to Ensure Safe Transfers Process To and From the Aircraft Seat

  • What problems do passengers who require physical assistance encounter when traveling by air?
  • What types of harm can result from inadequate or unsafe physical assistance?
  • What financial costs (medical, transportation, lost wages, etc.), if any, do people who use wheelchairs incur due to unsafe physical assistance or other injuries sustained when traveling by air?
  • What strategies are airlines or their contractors implementing to ensure transfers to and from the aircraft seat are done safely?
  • What new or additional practices or procedures could be implemented by airlines or their contractors to increase safety and reduce risks of harm when physically assisting passengers?
  • What are the challenges and limitations associated with the equipment currently used by airlines or their contractors (e.g., aisle chairs)?
  • What new technologies or equipment exist that may improve safety for passengers who require physical assistance and for airline personnel, and what are the costs and benefits of implementing such new technologies or equipment?
  • What data exist that show the effects of hands-on training for employees who physically assist persons with disabilities on safety, and what are the costs and benefits of hands-on training programs?

TOPIC NO. 4: Best Practices for Assisting Passengers When Their Wheelchair Has Been Mishandled

  • When a wheelchair has been mishandled, what resources or equipment are necessary to timely and safely assist the passenger at the airport?
  • What types of wheelchairs are currently made available for passengers to temporarily use at the airport when their wheelchairs are mishandled and unavailable for use?
  • How do airlines train frontline employees to address the needs of passengers whose wheelchairs were mishandled?
  • What physical harm may result to people with disabilities when they cannot access their wheelchairs, and what measures can be implemented to prevent or reduce such harm?
  • Do airlines have wheelchair repair/rental vendors that can assist with obtaining loaner chairs and with customized features and, if so, what are the associated costs?
  • What improvements could be made to the damage claim, repair, and return process so that wheelchairs can be quickly returned or replaced?