Air Carrier Access Act Amendment

Many of you may think the Americans with Disabilities Act from 1990 has allowed for people with disabilities to have access to Air Travel or made it so planes would have to be accessible to be berthed out of the US. But this is a myth. Airplanes are not accessible. The Air Carrier Access Act was actually passed in 1986 by Reagan which meant airlines could no longer refuse to allow disabled passengers flights. However Airlines were not forced to make the airplanes themselves mobility aid friendly and being corporations without legislation requiring it they have remained inaccessible to people with a variety of disabilities. Now you may think well they must be I’ve seen people in those wheelchairs at the gate. Well let me explain why that is not real access.

Firstly we cannot use our mobility aids to board, they get checked in with regular luggage and are often broken or lost. There is a misconception amongst the able bodied that our mobility aids are simply devices or tools that can be readily replaced.

Most wheelchairs are custom made for the user and very expensive and even if money is no object they take time to be made most of the prominent domestic manufacturers have a waitlist of 3-6 months some more specialized have a longer wait.

Secondly we are forced to ride in what is known as an aisle chair which as it is something only a small portion of passengers need they are often missing or in great disrepair. The aisle chair I can only describe as a human hand truck, it is a very narrow seat with a high back that we are then strapped into. Usually in my experience like a bad shopping cart one of the wheels makes the chair skew in one direction meaning a very bumpy ride as the porters load us on the plane and the porters are usually not accustomed to driving it making it more of a struggle. I am a paraplegic and the way the straps work my knees still splay outwards getting knocked into everything we pass, especially on the way off the plane. Yes I have no sensation but my bones are actually very brittle from having been a paraplegic for so many years and recovering from an injury below my spinal cord injury takes a lot more time and I am at high risk for infections and other complications.

Thirdly once on the plane we usually have no access to the lavatory, only 4% of flights out of the US have an “accessible lavatory” which their definition of accessible lavatory does not meet the ADA requirements of any other business. What an accessible lavatory means on a plane is that there is an aisle chair on board and you can be pushed into the closet sized facility in the chair having the door shut behind you. Meaning once inside you have no space to transfer or do anything and you can’t open the door behind you, you are completely reliant on the attendants.

Finally when the airline inevitably damages or loses your chair or other mobility the process of getting it repaired or replaced takes months to get approved and then however long the replacement or repair itself will take. So if you are a manual chair user like myself you will be put in a bulky cumbersome hospital chair which is made to be pushed by someone versus independent use the whole time you wait. If you are a power chair user you will be put in a loaner powerchair and the shop usually just has one so it is beat up won’t hold a charge things fall off and don’t support you and again it will be much bulkier than you are used to. If this chair means your house, car, job is no longer accessible tough they won’t cover any of those costs. You may think being in an unsuitable chair is merely an inconvenience it is not. Engracia Figueroa who I quoted above died as a result she was a quadriplegic and unable to properly adjust herself she developed a pressure ulcer and died from resulting infection. When Delta broke my chair in January 2020 I was working as a automotive technician and I was unable to do my job from that chair so I had to man the desk if I had an unreasonable employer I would have had to stay home until my chair was fixed. The chair was super wide and wouldn’t fit in my bathroom so I had to transfer to the floor and crawl to use my own bathroom. I couldn’t self load my chair so my roommates would have to help me get in my car and then when I got to work a colleague would have to come get me out of the car. As dependent as the unsuitable chair made me a relatively healthy paraplegic imagine what it does to a quadriplegic?

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Thank you for sharing this. It is so important to highlight disability rights issues. So many people do not take them seriously.

3 Likes This company has made it so to allow chairs on airplanes without major retrofits or costs

Gabrielle GG deFiebre on Instagram: "On two recent flights to and from Chicago, I managed to get my chair in the cabin of the plane. When I booked my flights, I called to let United know I wanted to have my chair in the cabin, either in the onboard closet (I have stored my folded frame in a closet before, with my wheels in an overhead bin - the last photo) or via seat-strapping (placing a wheelchair across a row of seats using a strap kit to transport a passenger’s manual folding wheelchair in the cabin of aircraft). I got to the gate and they said the plane was too small to use the closet or seat-strap and that it was a full flight so they would have to kick people off the plane to accommodate me. After discussing with them, they put me on a delayed flight with many empty seats that was leaving shortly and the plane was larger. They strapped my folded chair to two seats in the bulkhead, and my power-assist wheels in a first class seat (first and second photos - wheels aren’t strapped in the photo but were during flight). The flight attendant said “We don’t normally do this, but because it’s not crowded, we will.” Then, on the flight back, of course I encountered similar resistance: “Chairs are supposed to go underneath the plane, not the cabin,” “We have to see if the plane has a closet and if it does, if the first class passengers want to use it, then you can’t.” The regulations state: “As a carrier, you must never request or suggest that a passenger not stow his or her wheelchair in the cabin to accommodate other passengers (e.g., informing a passenger that stowing his or her wheelchair in the cabin will require other passengers to be removed from the flight), or for any other non-safety related reason (e.g., that it is easier for the carrier if the wheelchair is stowed in the cargo compartment).” After arguing again, I was informed there was no closet and the pilot would not seat-strap. I argued again, stating I was on the same aircraft on the way to Chicago and we seat-strapped with no problem. Multiple people who were waiting for the flight were very supportive and said that they were willing to sit next to my chair if needed or help however they could. [CONTINUED IN COMMENTS]" This user after a horrible experience makes airlines store her chair in the cabin every time now

I as a manual chair user I wouldn’t want to be in my chair for longer than a two hour flight, but not having my chair broken or lost shouldn’t be a luxury and being the first one off and last one off is not a perk it’s terrible especially with the anxiety of not knowing if your chair will have survived the flight. And not having access to the lavatory means at the end of the trip we are desperate for a wee.

Jennie Berry | Disabled Blog♿️ shared a post on Instagram: "Update: please sign my petition which can be found in my ‘plane toilet’ highlight‼️

I recently went on holiday and unfortunately our @tuiuk flight was changed to @albastar.airline - a small...

I use a leg bag and empty it into bottles when on long flights, toilet access is basic human right not mention being able to get up and stretch during long flights.

Thank you for not just replying to the fluff rant and actually listening to my call to action please use the top link to write your rep

disabled af 🚷 shared a post on Instagram: "Ever since being paralyzed I have been terrified of flying because I personally know people who have had their wheelchairs broken or lost by airlines. To go without your custom wheelchair for 6 months while...