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New Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability

About this Document

For years, access to the nation’s air travel system for persons with disabilities was an area of substantial dissatisfaction, with both passengers and the airline industry recognizing the need for major improvement. In 1986 Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop a new regulation which ensures that persons with disabilities will be treated without discrimination in a way consistent with the safe carriage of all passengers.

This regulation was published in March 1990 and has been amended a number of times since then. Effective May 13, 2009, the rule was expanded to include flights to and from the U.S. by foreign airlines.
The Department of Transportation’s ACAA regulation represents a major stride forward in improving the air travel experience for persons with disabilities. The rule clearly explains the responsibilities of the traveler, the air carriers, the airport operators, and contractors, who collectively make up the system that moves two million passengers per day.

The ACAA rule is designed to minimize the special problems that travelers with disabilities face as they negotiate their way through the air travel system from origin to destination. This is achieved:

  • By recognizing that the physical barriers encountered by passengers with disabilities can frequently be overcome by employing simple changes in layout and technology.
  • By adopting the principle that many difficulties confronting passengers with hearing or vision impairments will be relieved if they are provided access to the same information that is available to all other passengers.
  • Through training of all air travel personnel who come in day-to-day contact with persons with disabilities, to understand their needs and how they can be accommodated quickly, safely, and with dignity.

This guide is designed to offer travelers with disabilities a brief but authoritative source of information about the ACAA rule: the accommodations, facilities, and services that are required to be available. It also describes features required by other regulations designed to make air travel more accessible. The guide is structured in much the same sequence as a passenger would plan for a trip: the circumstances he or she must consider prior to traveling, what will be encountered at the airport, and what to expect in the transitions from airport to airplane, on the plane, and then airplane to airport.

Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact airconsumer2@dot.gov.