WASHINGTON, DC–(Marketwired – June 22, 2016) – Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) today released a statement highlighting the need for improvements to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The ACAA, which prohibits disability-based discrimination against passengers with disabilities in air travel, was signed into law 30 years ago.
Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Director Sherman Gillums, Jr. stated the following:
“Paralyzed Veterans has been a leader in accessibility for veterans and all passengers with disabilities in air travel for more than thirty years. Following a Supreme Court decision holding that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act didn’t apply to airline accessibility, Paralyzed Veterans sought legislation to ensure this right. Despite progress, airline passengers with disabilities continue to encounter significant difficulties in air travel including broken wheelchairs, delayed assistance in boarding and deplaning the aircraft, inaccessible lavatories and inflight entertainment and communications, and difficulty in securing the proper seating assignment to accommodate disability-related needs.
In July 2015, the Department of Transportation released the latest figures on complaints filed directly with airlines. In 2014, passengers filed 27,556 disability-related complaints as reported by 173 domestic and foreign air carriers, which represents a nine percent increase over 2013. These problems are not merely inconveniences — they lead to potential injuries, lost time, and missed opportunities for veterans and all passengers with disabilities. The ACAA provides few opportunities for addressing these and other problems. Unlike other civil rights laws, this law lacks a guaranteed private right of action. Consequently, people with disabilities typically receive little, if any, redress to their specific grievances.
As Paralyzed Veterans works to seek additional improvements to the ACAA that would increase enforcement, create greater accessibility in the aircraft, and improve the assistance passengers with disabilities receive, we call on all individuals with disabilities to share their stories. Your experiences will help us as we work toward ensuring all passengers with disabilities have full access to air travel.”
Paralyzed Veterans recently participated in a briefing in collaboration with other disability advocates regarding the air travel experience for veterans and all people with disabilities. At the briefing, Paralyzed Veterans called for passage of disability-related consumer provisions included in both the Senate version of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization (H.R. 636) and the Airline Consumer Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 5291). These important provisions require studies that will highlight areas for improvement and lead to the dissemination of best practices to improve airport accessibility and air carrier training policies, and a determination about the feasibility of using in cabin wheelchair restraint systems. Another provision would require the Secretary of Transportation to establish an advisory committee on the air travel needs of passengers with disabilities to advise the Secretary on implementation of the ACAA.
More than 60 people were in attendance at the Capitol Hill Visitors Center on Friday, June 17, to hear from Paralyzed Veterans, New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the National Federation for the Blind, Easterseals Project Action Counseling, and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. The briefing was the first in a series of events planned in the ACAA 30th anniversary year to discuss the civil rights protections contained in the law.
In January, Paralyzed Veterans launched a website that encourages individuals with disabilities to share their air travel experiences, both positive and negative. These stories will help Paralyzed Veterans continue to advocate for improved access in air travel. The call for information is on www.airaccess30.org.
About Paralyzed Veterans of America:
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.
As a partner for life, Paralyzed Veterans also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation and advocates for veterans and all people with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (pva.org)