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U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes Rule to Enhance Air Travel Accessibility for Wheelchair Users

Credits: Reuters

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has unveiled a new proposed rule from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that aims to enhance the travel experience for airline passengers who use wheelchairs.

If approved, the rule would mark the most significant expansion of rights for these passengers since the implementation of the seat-strapping rule in 2008.

The proposed rule sets forth stringent standards for airlines to ensure the safe and dignified accommodation of passengers with disabilities.

It includes provisions for prompt and safe assistance procedures, as well as mandates for enhanced training for airline employees and contractors who assist passengers with disabilities and handle their wheelchairs.

Wheelchair User (Credits: The New York Times)

Additionally, the rule outlines measures that airlines must take to protect passengers in the event of wheelchair damage during transport.

It also seeks to streamline the process for holding airlines accountable for damage or delayed return of wheelchairs, making mishandling an automatic violation of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

Secretary Buttigieg emphasized the importance of these changes, noting that millions of Americans with disabilities avoid air travel due to inadequate practices and regulations. The proposed rule aims to address these issues, ensuring that wheelchair users can travel safely and with dignity.

Statistics indicate that approximately 5.5 million Americans use wheelchairs, and many face obstacles when flying. In 2023 alone, carriers reported mishandling 11,527 wheelchairs and scooters, underscoring the need for improved standards and regulations in the airline industry.

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