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Published: May 30, 2013
Disability Law Series: The Air Carrier Access Act


Written by Jessica Bolen


The road to civil liberties and rights for those with disabilities has been a long one.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some of the most influential Federal civil rights law that ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.

This week we are highlighting the Air Carrier Access Act. The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel, and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities.

Some examples of what this act includes are:

  • Carriers may not refuse transportation to people on the basis of disability. If a carrier excludes a handicapped person on safety grounds, the carrier must provide the person a written explanation of the decision.
  • Airlines may not require advance notice that a person with a disability is traveling.
  • Carriers may require up to 48 hours’ advance notice for certain accommodations that require preparation time (e.g., respirator hook-up, transportation of an electric wheelchair on an aircraft with less than 60 seats).
  • New aircrafts (planes ordered after April 5, 1990 or delivered after April 5, 1992) with 30 or more seats must have movable aisle armrests on half the aisle seats in the aircraft.
  • Aircrafts with more than 60 seats and an accessible lavatory must have an on-board wheelchair, regardless of when the aircraft was ordered or delivered. For flights on an aircraft with more than 60 seats that do not have an accessible lavatory, carriers must place an on-board wheelchair on the flight if a passenger with a disability gives the airline 48 hours’ notice that he or she can use an inaccessible lavatory but needs an on-board wheelchair to reach the lavatory.
  • Airport facilities owned or operated by carriers must meet the same accessibility standards that apply to Federally-assisted airport operators.


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