DOT Focuses on Training to Improve Access to Air Travel for Individuals with Disabilities

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released a series of new disability-related training materials for airlines and passengers with disabilities on the four areas where the Department receives the greatest number of air travel disability complaints.  DOT worked closely with disability-rights organizations, airlines, and airports to ensure that any material that is developed is of optimal use. 

“We must ensure that Americans of all ages and abilities can access our nation’s transportation system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx.  “Today’s actions recognize the critical importance of training in providing accessible transportation and reinforce our commitment to full implementation of the Air Carrier Access Act.”

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits airlines from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.  Under DOT rules, airlines are required to train to proficiency all airline personnel and contractors who interact with the traveling public. 

The new DOT training materials target the four areas for which the Department receives the greatest number of complaints – (1) wheelchair and guide assistance; (2) stowage, loss, delay, and damage of wheelchairs and other mobility assistive devices; (3) aircraft seating accommodations; and (4) travel with service animals.  They are intended to be an additional resource that airlines can use to supplement the disability-related trainings that they are required to provide their employees and contractors under DOT rules.  The new training materials also include companion pieces to provide passengers with disabilities information about their rights under the ACAA and the Department’s rules.

The content available today includes two videos, downloadable brochures that can be printed or viewed on a mobile device, and a foldable accordion wheelchair/guided assistance tip sheet that airline personnel can carry and reference while assisting passengers with disabilities.  These resources are available on DOT’s website at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/disability-training/.  

In the near future, the Department will also be posting on its website two interactive guides designed to supplement airline personnel and contractor trainings.

DOT is committed to using all the tools available to it, including enforcement action, to ensure that airlines understand and comply with their obligation to ensure that their personnel and contractors are trained.  Today, DOT is also issuing an order against American Airlines (American) for failing to properly train its reservation and gate agents regarding the proper handling of service animal requests. 

The order DOT is issuing today against American is for a series of errors in the handling of seating arrangements for a military veteran who attempted to travel on an American flight with his service animal.  These series of errors reflect lapses in training and led to significant travel complications and frustration for the passenger.  The order directs American to provide supplemental training to its reservations agents and gate agents about the proper handling of service animal requests.  The consent order is available at www.regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2014-0146.

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