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Air Carrier Access Act
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Pre trip considerations

At the airport

Boarding & Deplanng

On the plane


Work to still be done

air carrier access act

Summary of the ACAA


Air Carrier Access Act

This page contains a general Guiide to the Air Carrier Access Act

This guide is designed to offer travelers with disabilities an authoritative source of information about the Air Carrier Access rules: the accommodations, facilities, and services that are and are not required.
To review only the major points of the Act, visit a brief summary of the Air Carrier Access Act


For years, access to the nation’s 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 which 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 DOT regulations, referred to here as 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 which moves over 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 nation’s complex air travel system from origin to destination.

How this is achieved
* By recognizing that the physical barriers encountered by passengers with disabilities can frequently be overcome by employing simple changes in layout and technology.
* By adopting the principle that many difficulties confronting passengers with hearing or vision impairments will be relieved if they are provided access to the same information that is available to all other passengers.
* Through training of all air travel personnel who come in day-to-day contact with persons with disabilities, to understand their needs and how they can be accommodated quickly, safely, and with dignity.

This guide is designed to offer travelers with disabilities a brief but authoritative source of information about the Air Carrier Access rules: the accommodations, facilities, and services that are now required to be available. It also describes features required by other regulations designed to make air travel more accessible.
The guide is structured in much the same sequence as a passenger would plan for a trip: the circumstances he or she must consider prior to traveling, what will be encountered at the airport, and what to expect in the transitions from airport to airplane, on the plane, and then airplane to airport.


Pre trip Considerations

The New Traveling Environment

The Air Carrier Access rules sweep aside many restrictions that formerly discriminated against passengers with disabilities:

* A carrier may not refuse transportation to a passenger solely on the basis of a disability.

* Air carriers may not limit the number of individuals with disabilities on a particular flight.

* All trip information that is made available to other passengers also must be made available to passengers with disabilities.

* Carriers must provide passage to an individual who has a disability that may affect his or her appearance or involuntary behavior, even if this disability may offend, annoy, or be an inconvenience to crew-members or other passengers.


Exceptions to this rule

* The carrier may refuse transportation if the individual with a disability would endanger the health or safety of other passengers, or transporting the person would be a violation of FAA safety rules.

* If the plane has fewer than 30 seats, the carrier may refuse transportation if there are no lifts, boarding chairs or other devices available which can be adapted to the limitations of such small aircraft by which to enplane the passenger. Airline personnel are not required to carry a mobility-impaired person onto the aircraft by hand.

* There are special rules about persons with certain disabilities or communicable diseases. These rules are covered in the chapter entitled "At the Airport."

* The carrier may refuse transportation if it is unable to seat the passenger without violating the FAA Exit Row Seating rules. See the chapter "On the Plane."


New procedures for resolving disputes

* All carriers are now required to have a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) immediately available (even if by phone) to resolve disagreements which may arise between the carrier and passengers with disabilities.

* Travelers who disagree with a carrier’s actions toward them can pursue the issue with the carrier’s CRO on the spot.

* A carrier that refuses transportation to any person based on a disability must provide a written statement to that person within 10 calendar days, stating the basis for the refusal. The statement must include, where applicable, the basis for the carrier’s opinion that transporting the person could be harmful to the safety of the flight.

* If the passenger is still not satisfied, he or she may pursue DOT enforcement action.


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:

* Any limitations which may be known to the carrier concerning the ability of the aircraft to accommodate an individual with a disability;

* The location of seats (if any) with movable aisle armrests and any seats which the carrier does not make available to an individual with a disability (e.g., exit rows);

* Any limitations on the availability of storage facilities in the cabin or in the cargo bay for mobility aids or other equipment commonly used by an individual with a disability;

* Whether the aircraft has an accessible lavatory.

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 Required

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 you 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:

* Transportation for an electric wheelchair on an aircraft with fewer than 60 seats;

* Provision by the carrier of hazardous materials packaging for the battery of a wheelchair or other assistive device;

* Accommodations for 10 or more passengers with disabilities who travel as a group;

* Provision of an on-board wheelchair on an aircraft that does not have an accessible lavatory for persons who can use an inaccessible lavatory but need an on-board chair to do so.


Not required to provide the following services or equipment

But should they choose to provide them, they may require 48 hours advance notice and a one hour advance check-in:

* Medical oxygen for use on board the aircraft;

* Carriage of an incubator;

* Hook-up for a respirator to the aircraft's electrical supply;

* Accommodations for a passenger who must travel on a stretcher.

Carriers may impose reasonable, nondiscriminatory charges for these optional 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 cancelled), 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-body 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:

* A person traveling on a stretcher or in an incubator (for flights where such service is offered);

* A person who, because of a mental disability, is unable to comprehend or respond appropriately to safety instructions from carrier personnel;

* A person with a mobility impairment so severe that the individual is unable to assist in his or her own evacuation from the aircraft;

* A person who has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments which prevent him or her from receiving and acting on necessary instructions from carrier personnel when evacuating the aircraft during an emergency.

The carrier and the passenger may disagree about the applicability of one of these criteria. In such cases, the airline can require the passenger to travel with an attendant, contrary to the passenger’s assurances that he or she can travel alone. However, the carrier cannot charge for the transportation of the 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 passenger's 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 personal 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 service 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.


At The Airport

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 (ADA) 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:

* Accessible parking near the terminal;

* Signs indicating accessible parking and the easiest access from those spaces to the terminal;

* Accessible medical aid facilities and travelers aid stations;

* Accessible restrooms;

* Accessible drinking fountains;

* Accessible ticketing systems at primary fare collection areas;

* Amplified telephones and text telephones (TTs) for use by persons with hearing and speech impairments (there must be at least one TT in each terminal in a clearly marked accessible location);

* Accessible baggage check-in and retrieval areas;

* Jetways and mobile lounges that are accessible (at airports that have such facilities);

* Level entry boarding ramps, lifts or other means of assisting an individual with a disability on and off an aircraft;

* Information systems using visual words, letters or symbols with lighting and color coding, and systems for providing information orally;

* Signs indicating the location of specific facilities and services.


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:

* Shuttle vehicles, owned or operated by airports, transporting people between parking lots and terminal buildings;

* People movers and moving walkways within and between terminals and gates.

All carrier facilities must currently include one accessible route from an airport entrance to ticket counters, boarding locations and baggage handling areas. Thes 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:

* ticketing;

* scheduled departure times and gates;

* change of gate assignments;

* status of flight delays;

* schedule changes;

* flight check-in;

* checking and claiming of luggage.

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 passenger’s 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 screenings 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 passenger’s 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:

* Is on a stretcher or in an incubator (where such service is offered);

* Needs medical oxygen during flight (where such service is offered);

* Has a medical condition which causes the carrier to have reasonable doubt that the individual can complete the flight safely, without requiring extraordinary medical assistance during the flight; or

* Has a communicable disease or infection that has been determined by federal public health authorities to be generally transmittable during flight.

If the medical certificate is necessitated by a communicable disease (see next section), 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:

* Refuse to provide transportation to the person;

* Require the person to provide a medical certificate stating that the disease at its current stage would not be transmittable during the normal course of flight, or describing measures which would prevent transmission during flight;

* Impose on the person a condition or requirement not imposed on other passengers (.e.g., wearing a mask).

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.


Continue to Page 2

You have reached the end of page one of two pages. To learn more about the regulations for boarding and deplaning, policies onboard the airplane, and the Conclusion by the FAA, click here to visit page two of the Guide To The Air Carrier Access Act.

Except fot the digital images by Accessible Journeys, The contents of this page, in its entirity, was obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Civil Rights (web citation not currently available)



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