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How the Air Carrier Access Act handles disability discrimination

It is essential for individuals with disabilities to know their rights when traveling. One of the most important laws to remember is the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986. The act specifically protects the rights of aircraft passengers with disabilities.

Unfortunately, disability discrimination is still frequent. Understanding your rights can help you identify and prevent discrimination on an airline.

What rights does the ACAA protect?

The ACAA prohibits airlines from:

  • Denying individuals transportation services
  • Restricting or requiring specific seating arrangements
  • Preventing service animals from boarding the aircraft
  • Refusing to provide accessible assistance

There are a few exceptions to these situations. For example, passengers who sit in exit rows on an aircraft must be able to complete certain duties, such as opening the emergency exits and assisting other passengers out of the plane. So, airlines do have the right to determine who sits in those rows.

However, unless it is to protect your safety or the safety of other passengers, all of these actions are still a clear violation of your rights. 

How the ACAA impacts accessibility

In addition to preventing discrimination, the ACAA also requires airlines to meet certain standards of accessibility. These standards entail:

  • Accessible restrooms
  • Accessible seating
  • Onboard wheelchairs
  • Individual assistance (with notice)

Personal assistance can require airlines to allow electric wheelchairs or other devices on board the aircraft. It can also include help from employees during the boarding process and more.

Knowing your rights can reduce your anxiety

Traveling can already be stressful enough. No one should have to suffer emotional or physical distress from discrimination on top of that. 

Understanding your federal rights can help ease that stress. It could help stop discrimination in its tracks. Or, knowing your rights can also give you the evidence you need to file a complaint if you have experienced discrimination.

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The State Bar Of California The Florida Bar 1950 The West Virginia State Bar May 1, 1947 The Law Society of England and Wales Law Society of Ontario | Barreau de l'Ontario

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