In addition to MDA’s dedication to funding research and providing multidisciplinary clinical care, we are also passionate and committed advocates for the families we serve. Together, we advocate for increased federal funding for biomedical research; for access to clinical care, support services and equipment; and for policies and programs that help ensure access to the resources and services necessary to maximize independence and pursue a life without limits—which includes accessible air travel. The ability to access air travel impacts many aspects of life—from the kind of job you can have, to where you can live, to whether you can access a provider or participate in a clinical trial that is far away from home.
As the 30th Anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) approaches, MDA celebrates the great strides that have been made to increase air travel accessibility. In the three decades since Congress passed this landmark legislation that requires equal access to air travelers with disabilities, the law has permitted thousands of MDA families to travel more freely – something that would not have been possible before the ACAA. MDA also appreciates the efforts that air carriers have made to help disabled passengers access air travel.
In light of the many positive changes that have taken place, however, disabled passengers continue to face significant challenges—and we recognize that there is still work to be done. MDA is working with policy makers, industry, and other stakeholders and disabled travel advocates to support increased accessibility to air travel. A few of the ways that MDA is engaged include sharing information about resources available to disabled air travelers on our Accessible Air Travel webpage, partnering with airlines to provide feedback regarding the information they provide to disabled passengers, and participating in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Disability Coalition.
MDA is also actively engaged in supporting legislation that would:
- Study the use of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems;
- Identify best practices in airport accessibility;
- Examine training policies regarding assistance for disabled air travelers; and
- Create an advisory committee with diverse stakeholders to investigate and report to Congress on the needs of disabled passengers.
MDA particularly supports the concept of a study to examine ways that wheelchairs could be accommodated in-flight through the use of cabin wheelchair restraint systems. The potential for disabled passengers to remain in their wheelchair in-flight is important as travelers must currently transfer multiple times—even when taking a direct flight. In fact, up to five transfers per flight segment are required for many passengers—from wheelchair to aisle chair, from aisle chair to airplane seat, from airplane seat back to aisle chair, and from aisle chair back to wheelchair. Such transfers are especially challenging—or even impossible—for those living with muscle debilitating diseases, and each transfer comes with the risk of injury. The potential for a disabled traveler to remain in his or her wheelchair in-flight is imperative to study as such an approach could not only potentially enable safer travel, it could also significantly decrease damage that occurs to wheelchairs when they are placed in luggage/stowage areas for transport.
As these and other efforts regarding accessible air travel evolve, we will keep you up to date. To receive information related to accessible air travel and other policy and advocacy initiatives, register to receive MDA’s Advocacy updates here.