are some helpful FAA
Guidelines ] [
with Disabilities ] [ Recourses ]
Laws and Rights Serving Americans with Disabilities
is useful to spend some time becoming educated about how the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA)
affect the traveler with SCI.
ADA, passed in 1990, gave civil rights protections to individuals with
disabilities. It guarantees equal opportunity in employment,
transportation, public accommodations, telecommunications, and state and
local government. For travelers with SCI, this means travel related
services, such as lodging, dining, entertainment venues, bus and rail
stations, cruise ship terminals, and airports are impacted and should be
more accessible as the industry comes into compliance.
ACAA, passed in 1986, guarantees that people with disabilities receive
consistent and non-discriminatory treatment when traveling by air. An
experienced travel agency will provide SCI travelers with a copy of the
ACAA. It is recommended that travelers with SCI bring a copy of the ACAA
whenever flying. Having a copy on hand can help both the passenger with
a SCI and airline personnel clarify any misunderstanding about what is
laws have dramatically improved how individuals with SCI travel.
However, travel industry suppliers need to be constantly educated about
their obligation under these laws.
Factors, Curbside Check In
heightened security measures require more time to screen travelers.
Clients should contact their airline to find out how early
they should arrive at the airport.
should take public transportation when possible to the airport.
Parking and curbside access is likely to be controlled and limited.
check in is available on an airline basis. Travelers should
contact their airline to see if curbside check in is in place at the
airports they will be using.
government-issued photo ID (federal, state or local) is required.
Travelers might be asked to show this ID at subsequent points after the
initial check in, such as at the gate, along with their boarding passes.
check–in kiosks are available for airlines that have appropriate
security measures in place. Travelers should check with their
airline to see if this option is available at the airport they will be
travelers should check with their airline to make sure they have proper
documentation. Written confirmation such as a letter from the
airline acknowledging the reservation might be required.
ticketed passengers are allowed beyond screener checkpoints, except for
people accompanying travelers who require assistance due to medical or
Each traveler will be limited to one carry on bag and one personal bag
(i.e. purse or briefcase).
electrical items, such as laptops and cell phones, might be subjected to
additional screening. Be prepared to remove your laptop from its travel
case so that both items can be X-rayed separately.
should limit the amount off metal objects worn on his or her person.
Travelers should remove all metal objects prior to passing through the
metal detectors to facilitate the screening process.
Prohibited From Aircraft Cabins
items must be in, or transported as, checked baggage or risk
confiscation. When in doubt, transport item in checked baggage.
of any length, composition or description
instruments of any kind, including knives and box cutters (and spare
blades), any device with a folding or retractable blade, ice picks,
straight razors, metal scissors and metal nail files.
or softball bats
Permitted To Be Carried On To Airplanes
canes and umbrellas (once inspected to ensure prohibited items are not
(with documented proof of medical need)
To Expect At The Gate
must be prepared to present a valid photo ID along with their boarding
and their bags might be subjected to additional screening
should control all bags and personal items
should not carry anything on board for another person
should report any unattended items in the airport or aircraft to the
nearest airport or airline personnel
Passengers with Disabilities
Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of
disability in air travel and requires U.S. air carriers to accommodate
the needs of passengers with disabilities. The Department of
Transportation has a rule defining the rights of passengers and the
obligations of air carriers under this law. The following is a summary
of the main points of the DOT rule (Title 14 CFR, Part 382).
of Discriminatory Practices
may not refuse transportation to people on the basis of disability.
Airlines may exclude anyone from a flight if carrying the person
would be inimical to the safety of the flight. If a carrier excludes
a person with a disability on safety grounds, the carrier must
provide a written explanation of the decision.
may not require advance notice that a person with a disability is
traveling. Carriers may require up to 48 hours’ advance notice for
certain accommodations that require preparation time (e.g., respirator
hook-up, transportation of an electric wheelchair on an aircraft with
less than 60 seats).
may not limit the number of disabled persons on a flight.
may not require a person with a disability to travel with an
attendant, except in certain limited circumstances specified in the
rule. If a disabled passenger and the carrier disagree about the
need for an attendant, the airline can require the attendant, but
cannot charge for the transportation of the attendant.
may not keep anyone out of a seat on the basis of handicap, or
require anyone to sit in a particular seat on the basis of handicap,
except as an FAA safety rule requires. FAA's rule on exit row
seating says that carriers may place in exit rows only persons who
can perform a series of functions necessary in an emergency
aircraft with 30 or more seats must have movable aisle armrests on
half the aisle seats in the aircraft. "New aircraft"
requirements apply to planes ordered after April 5, 1990 or
delivered after April 5, 1992. No retrofit is required, although
compliance with on-board wheelchair requirements (see below) became
mandatory on April 5, 1992 regardless of the plane’s age. As older
planes are refurbished, required accessibility features (e.g.,
movable armrests) must be added.
widebody (twin-aisle) aircraft must have accessible lavatories.
aircraft with 100 or more seats must have priority space for storing
a passenger’s folding wheelchair in the cabin.
with more than 60 seats and an accessible lavatory must have an
on-board wheelchair, regardless of when the aircraft was ordered or
delivered. For flights on aircraft with more than 60 seats that do
not have an accessible lavatory, carriers must place an on-board
wheelchair on the flight if a passenger with a disability gives the
airline 48 hours’ notice that he or she can use an inaccessible
lavatory but needs an on-board wheelchair to reach the lavatory.
facilities owned or operated by carriers must meet the same
accessibility standards that apply to Federally-assisted airport
Services and Accommodations
are required to provide assistance with boarding, deplaning and
making connections. Assistance within the cabin is also required,
but not extensive personal services. Ramps or mechanical lifts must
be available for most aircraft with 19 through 30 seats at larger
U.S. airports by December 1998, and at all U.S. airports with over
10,000 annual enplanements by December 2000.
passengers’ items stored in the cabin must conform to FAA rules on
the stowage of carry-on baggage. Assistive devices do not count
against any limit on the number of pieces of carry-on baggage.
Wheelchairs (including collapsible battery-powered wheelchairs) and
other assistive devices have priority for in-cabin storage space
(including in closets) over other passengers’ items brought on
board at the same airport, if the passenger with a disability
chooses to preboard.
and other assistive devices have priority over other items for
storage in the baggage compartment.
must accept battery-powered wheelchairs, including the batteries,
packaging the batteries in hazardous materials packages when
necessary. The carrier provides the packaging.
may not charge for providing accommodations required by the rule,
such as hazardous materials packaging for batteries. However, they
may charge for optional services such as oxygen.
provisions concerning services and accommodations address treatment
of mobility aids and asistive devices, passenger information,
accommodations for persons with hearing impairments, security
screening, communicable diseases and medical certificates, and
is required for carrier and contractor personnel who deal with the
must make available specially-trained "complaints resolution
officials" to respond to complaints from passengers and must
also respond to written complaints. A DOT enforcement mechanism is
rule applies to all U.S. air carriers providing commercial air
transportation. ‘Indirect’ air carriers (e.g. charter operators)
are not covered by certain provisions that concern the direct
provision of air transportation services.
must obtain an assurance of compliance from contractors who provide
services to passengers.
a more detailed description of this rule, see DOT’s booklet New
Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability.
information may be obtained by contacting email@example.com.
of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings
400 Seventh Street, SW, Room 4107
Washington, DC 20590
the recent past, travelers with SCI faced many obstacles. Architectural
barriers and unenlightened attitudes prevented many people with
disabilities from traveling with ease. The desire to travel was still
alive, yet the potential for negative experiences made staying close to
home the safest option.
the passage of laws such as the ADA and ACAA have dramatically improved
travel options. Additionally, the travel industry is slowly recognizing
that the disability community is a formidable market, with billions of
dollars in expendable income. These factors mean that individuals with
SCI and other disabilities can travel with confidence.
All airlines are mandated by law to be wheelchair accessible.
Wheelchair travelers are entitled to all the comforts and
accommodations of non-wheelchair travelers. Assistance boarding and
exiting the plane, as well as proper storage of your wheelchair,
should be arranged prior to departure. Each airline may have slightly
different procedures, so be sure to call ahead.
Greyhound and Peerless bus lines are accessible to wheelchair
travelers. Reservations need to be made 48 hours in advance, but four
to seven days is preferred. Once reservations are made, the disabled
services department needs to be informed of your intent to travel.
Companions or attendants often travel free of charge.
Each train is mandated to have at least four available accessible
compartments. The rooms are bigger and have larger bathrooms.
Accessible compartments sleep two. If the dining car is on the second
deck, order service to the room.
Cabins are larger and all decks are wheelchair friendly. Check with
individual cruise lines.
resources are available in local communities; check your telephone
directories, ask friends for resources, and ask at Support Group
meetings for good experiences with various travel agencies. Today, the
Internet provides a burgeoning number of resources. A couple of
general addresses for more information over the Web are
http://www.icdri.org/ or http://www.beyond-ability.com/.
Motor Club - Chicago - Ask for "Travel Healthy, Travel Happy"
brochure. If cruising, ask your travel agent to obtain a copy of the
cruise line's information sheet regarding traveling with disabilities.
Travel Source - offers a free newsletter and a collection of resources
and travel tips.
America, atlas and guide to national parks, Northern Cartographic Mapping
and Publishing, Dept. AA, P.O. Box 133, Burlington, VT 05402.
to the Skies Newsletter, published quarterly by the Paralyzed Veterans of
America for the Paralysis Society of America. Contact Access to the Skies,
801 Eighteenth Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006 (202) 872-1300.
to Travel Magazine, PO Box 352, New Baltimore, NY 12124.
Air Carrier Access Act: Make It Work For You brochure, published by the
Paralyzed Veterans of America, 801 Eighteenth Avenue NW, Washington, DC
20006 (202) 872-1300.
Americans with Disabilities Act: Your Personal Guide to the Law brochure,
published by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, 801 Eighteenth Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20006 (202) 872-1300.
Directory of Travel Agencies for the Disabled, Disability Bookshop, PO Box
129, Vancouver, WA 98666-0129 (800) 637-2256,
(206) 694-2462 (also available on cassette).
Vacations L.L.C., 3711 NW 4th Ave., Pompano Beach, FL 33064
954-781-0990 - 954-781-4157 Fax
for Accessibility by the Disabled, Box 356, Malyerne, NY 11565 (516)
in Walt Disney World: A Guide for Everyone, by Peter Smith (Southpark,
Travel Newsletter, published six times a year, $10.00 per year; contact
Dr. Michael Quigley, PO Box Drawer 29, Athens, TX 75751.
- Commission on Persons with Disabilities, 915 Ala Moana Blvd. (ground
floor), Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, (808) 548-7606 (Voice/TDD)
Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago - Lists travel
companies specializing in providing services to the disabled.
Travel Inc,. The Disability Travel Experts, 16555 White Orchid Lane *
Delray Beach, Florida 33446
Telephone: (800) 778-7953 * Office: (561) 921-0496 * Fax: (561) 921-0009
International, Box 3551, Eugene Ore, OR 97403, (503) 343-1284.
International Educational Exchange and Travel, $20.00 per year; contact
Suzanne Shelley, MIUSA, PO Box 10767, Eugene, OR 97440.
Directory, facilities for disabled in many cities, (800) 365-1220.
Park Service Office on Accessibility, Box 37127, Washington, DC 20013
Horizons for the Air Traveler with a Disability brochure, Department
of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division C-75, P-10,
Room 9222, 400 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20590, (202)
366-2220, (202) 755-7687 (TT).
Mobility , (866) Go-LIFTS, (866) 465-4387, Office: (586) 677-6363,
Fax: (586) 677-6379
(Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation) 25 Mortimer
Street, London W1N 8ABS England.
(Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped) 347 5th
Avenue, Suite 610, New York, NY 10016.
for Accessible Travel & Hopitality - (800) 513-1126 - This website
gives dozens of contract for all types of situations and limitations. 347
Fifth Avenue, Suite 610, New York, NY 10016 (212) 447-7284.
Industry and Disabled Exchange, 5435 Donna Avenue, Tarzana, CA 91356.
Information Service, Moss Rehabilitation Hospital, 12th Street
& Tabor Road, Philadelphia, PA 19141 (215) 329-5715.
Traders Unlimited, Contact Barbara McDermott at
firstname.lastname@example.org for literature and information for those
traveling with special needs. Home: 414-258-0926; Office: 262-238-8800;
Toll Free: 1-800-747-1708; Fax: 262-238-8801.
Talk Newsletter, Network and Directory, contact Rick Crowder, PO Box 3534,
Clarksville, TN 37043.
United States The
Department of Transportation, Office of Regulatory Affairs, P-10, Room
9222, 400 7th St. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590, (800) 778-4838 (6a.m. to
10 p.m. Central Time) - Provides one of the most important sources for
anyone flying with a disability "New Horizons: Information for the
Air Traveler With a Disability. ALSO, the DOT has created a new Aviation
Disability Hotline that collects complaint information 24/7 and is staffed
from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern time). (866) 266-1368 (voice) and (866)
754-4368 (TTY). FLY Rights is another publication the US DOT offers for
Airline Access information. (202) 366-2220
& Waves, published by Wheels Aweigh Publishing Co., 17105 San Carlos
Boulevard, Suite #1-6107, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931, (800) 637-2256 or