Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) applauds the Department of Transportation's (DOT) final rule requiring large domestic airlines to track and report information about wheelchairs and scooters that will allow passengers with disabilities to make informed decisions about air travel.
Beginning with flights taking place on or after January 1, 2018, these airlines will be required to provide to DOT on a monthly basis, the total number of wheelchairs and scooters that are placed in aircrafts' cargo compartments.
Airlines will also need to report how many of those wheelchairs and scooters were "mishandled." DOT considers a wheelchair or scooter to have been mishandled if lost, delayed, damaged, or pilfered.
"Damage to wheelchairs is a top concern for our members," said Al Kovach, Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans. "We hope that these metrics will provide data that will reveal specific areas in which training may be needed to reduce damage and fulfill the requirements and spirit of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)."
Paralyzed Veterans submitted comments in response to DOT's proposed rule in 2011.
While supporting the proposed rule, Paralyzed Veterans noted that such information would provide the evidence needed to show a pattern or practice of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, which could lead to enforcement through civil fines under the ACAA.
Although not included in the final rule, Paralyzed Veterans also supported extending it to include other types of mobility devices and to cover devices stowed in the cabin.
In January, Paralyzed Veterans launched a website in honor of the 30th anniversary of the ACAA, where individuals with disabilities can 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 website can found at www.airaccess30.org
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 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. (www.pva.org)