Protections Increased for Air Travelers with Disabilities

The following is from an 8 May 2008 posting on

But travelers complain existing rules are often ignored

May 8, 2008—Travelers with disabilities will be getting new protections against discrimination when they fly on a foreign airline flight that begins or ends in the United States, as well as on any flight operated by a U.S. carrier anywhere in the world.

That's because the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has strengthened its existing regulation implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and extended it to foreign airlines.

Some consumers, however, say that existing rules are poorly enforced and often of little benefit to disabled travelers.


The new rule also will make it easier for passengers to use medical oxygen during flights by requiring airlines to allow the use in the passenger cabin of portable oxygen concentrators that meet applicable safety, security and hazardous materials requirements for safe use aboard aircraft, DOT said.

DOT said it will seek further comment on whether airlines should be required to provide medical oxygen to passengers upon request. In addition, the department is studying subjects such as accessibility of airline web sites, automated ticketing kiosks, and in-flight entertainment systems.

The new rule also will provide greater accommodations for passengers with hearing impairments by requiring airlines to include easy-to-read captions for the hearing-impaired in its safety and informational videos.

Airlines must promptly provide the same information to hearing- and vision-impaired passengers that it provides to other passengers in airport terminals or on the aircraft—such as information on boarding, flight delays, schedule changes, weather conditions at the flight’s destination, connecting gate assignments, checking and claiming of baggage, and emergencies.

The rule does not specify how carriers should make this information available to passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The new rule will be effective in one year to give carriers enough time to begin implementing its provisions, DOT said.

Protections Increased for Air Travelers with Disabilities, By Truman Lewis, ConsumerAffairs.Com, 8 May 2008