Airlines could soon be held to a new standard in assisting travelers with disabilities.

A rule proposed this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation would mandate better training for airline staff and contractors who assist people with disabilities and those who handle wheelchairs. In addition, it paves the way for greater penalties for airlines and details steps that they must take in the event that a wheelchair or another assistive device is mishandled.

“There are millions of Americans with disabilities who do not travel by plane because of inadequate airline practices and inadequate government regulation, but now we are setting out to change that,” said Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. “This new rule would change the way airlines operate to ensure that travelers using wheelchairs can travel safely and with dignity.”

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The proposal would make it an automatic violation of the Air Carrier Access Act if airlines damage or delay the return of a wheelchair or another assistive device, which would allow the Transportation Department to more easily impose penalties.

In 2023 alone, Transportation Department data shows that airlines mishandled 11,527 wheelchairs and scooters. Under the proposal, airlines would be required in these circumstances to immediately notify passengers of their right to file a claim with the airline, receive a loner wheelchair and choose who they want to repair or replace their device.

When mobility devices are damaged, the Transportation Department plan would give passengers the right to choose if they want the airline to handle any repairs or replacement or if they prefer to make arrangements themselves at the airline’s expense. If a wheelchair is delayed, the proposal would require that it arrive within 24 hours of the passenger.

Moreover, airlines would be required to assist passengers with disabilities in a manner that is “safe and dignified.” The plan stipulates that personnel be available to help those who need a boarding chair get off an aircraft by the time the last passengers deplane and indicates that a passenger’s personal wheelchair should be placed as close to the door of the airplane as possible.

The rule includes new standards for on-board wheelchairs and a requirement that passengers are notified when their personal wheelchair is loaded or unloaded from an airplane’s cargo compartment. If a person’s wheelchair does not fit on the plane, they would need to be immediately notified.

“When somebody cannot travel because somebody else has decided that it’s too hard to accommodate them, the world shrinks. And importantly, it shrinks for that would-be traveler and it shrinks for everyone else, everyone who would benefit from having that traveler with them whether it is for a family gathering or whether it is for a board meeting,” Buttigieg said at a White House gathering touting the proposal. “We know that we can do better.”

The proposed rule will be up for public comment for 60 days.

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