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U.S. House Committee Call for action to Prevent Airline Mishandling of Wheelchairs

Steps were taken by the U.S. House committee leaders for airlines to do more to prevent the mishandling of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. A letter was drafted by members of Congress and sent to industry group Airlines for American CEO Nicholas Calio, National Air Carriers Association president George Novak and Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian regarding the U.S. airline industry and the prevention of mishandling of mobility aids.   

According to the 2012 Census, nearly 57 million Americans have a disability and more than 30 million require the use of a walker, cane or mobility device.

An amendment requiring airlines to disclose the number of mobility devices they mishandle and damage each month was created by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-III., a combat veteran and double amputee. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation released data that revealed airlines checked 62,985 wheelchairs and mobility scooters and mishandled 832 which is a 1.32% mishandling rate. 

Group members belonging to Paralyzed Veterans of America testified to Congress that each member had experienced being harmed when entering and exiting plan as well as damages to their power wheelchairs while in storage during flight. 

In a written statement, Airlines for America said carriers are working with disability groups as well as wheelchair manufacturers on guidelines for efficient and safe handling of stored wheelchairs. 

Delta also released a written statement saying, “Even one damaged or mishandled wheelchair or mobility scooter is unacceptable, and while we are not yet where we’d like to be, our path forward is one of continued improvement.”

The Delta Advisory Board on Disability is working on improving its handling of wheelchairs and training employees to properly handle mobility devices. 

Other efforts regarding proper handling of mobility devices are underway. The Open Doors Organization and Airports Council International hold workshops on accommodating passengers with disabilities. 

A Global Accessibility Symposium was held by the International Air Transport Association that aimed at improving the air travel experience for passengers with disabilities and mobility limitations. 

U.S House Committee leaders and advocates continue to raise awareness towards the issue and push forward to create guidelines to prevent airline mishandling of wheelchairs and mobility scooters.