Wheelchair in airport

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding and programs, and disabled passengers call for more airline accountability and accessibility to be included in the reauthorization act, a bipartisan bill was recently introduced called the Mobility Aids on Board Improve Lives and Empower All, the Washington Post reports.

The MOBILE Act would require DOT to take actions that empower passengers who use mobility aids and improve those passengers’ experiences when flying. Its sponsors include John Thune (R-SD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who has used a wheelchair since she lost her legs fighting in the Iraq war.

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More specifically, the bill, which has a lot of vague words such as “to develop” and “assess” in it, requires the Secretary of Transportation to:

  • Issue a notice of proposed rulemaking requiring air carriers and foreign air carriers to publish dimensions of cargo holds;
  • evaluate the frequency and types of damage to wheelchairs and scooters;
  • develop and submit to Congress a strategic roadmap on researching the technical feasibility of accommodating passengers in wheelchairs in the main cabin;
  • and assess the economic and financial feasibility of accommodating passengers with their wheelchairs in the main cabin during the flight.

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Senator Duckworth’s office included data when it introduced the bill including that more than 25 million Americans, over 14% of whom use wheelchairs, report they have disabilities that limit their travel. Also, in 2021, the DOT received 1,394 disability-related complaints, an increase of more than 157%  from the total of 541 complaints received in 2020, and up 54% from the 905 disability complaints received in 2019.

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