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Senator Baldwin Successfully Pushes White House to Protect Airplane Passengers with Disabilities

Proposed changes advance priorities outlined in Senator Baldwin’s Air Carrier Access Amendments Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) announced that the Biden Administration has proposed new rules that she has long pushed for to protect airplane passengers with disabilities. The proposed rules would help better accommodate travelers with disabilities when boarding and deplaning, better train staff assisting passengers, and ensure safe handling of wheelchairs in transit.

“Every American deserves to feel safe when they are traveling, no matter their age or ability. For too long, the current air travel regulations have not fully considered passengers with disabilities, endangering their wellbeing and those around them,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to successfully push for these changes and applaud the Biden Administration for taking action to ensure that every American can travel safely and with dignity.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing to strengthen its rule implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to ensure passengers who use wheelchairs can travel safely and with dignity. The proposed rule would require that airlines do better in accommodating passengers with disabilities by setting new standards for prompt, safe, and dignified assistance, mandating enhanced training for airline employees and contractors who physically assist passengers with disabilities and handle passengers’ wheelchairs, and outlining actions that airlines must take to protect passengers when a wheelchair is damaged during transport. The proposed rule also clarifies that damaging or delaying the return of a wheelchair is an automatic violation of the ACAA.

Included in this rule change is a provision Senator Baldwin championed in the 2018 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill to improve training for staff that assists passengers with disabilities. The proposed rule includes annual training, including hands-on training, of airline employees and contractors who physically assist passengers with mobility disabilities or handle passengers’ wheelchairs.

Senator Baldwin has been leading the charge to improve protections for air passengers with disabilities. Earlier this year, key provisions from Senator Baldwin’s Air Carrier Access Amendments Act advanced in the Senate Commerce Committee as part of the 2023 FAA legislation, which would protect and expand the rights of airplane passengers with disabilities, improve air travel safety, and strengthen investigations for potential ACAA violations. While this rule change is a step in the right direction, Senator Baldwin’s legislation goes further to protect passengers.

“Paralyzed Veterans of America has long been sounding the alarm about the lack of safety and dignity for passengers with disabilities in air travel. We are pleased the U.S. Department of Transportation has answered our call by proposing critical changes that would improve the experience of wheelchair users,” said Heather Ansley, Chief Policy Officer of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We also appreciate Senator Baldwin’s continuing support for the rights of passengers with disabilities and hope that Congress will soon address the needs of wheelchair users by ensuring the final FAA Reauthorization bill includes strong provisions that support the department’s work.”

More information about these updated protections for passengers with disabilities is available here.