Secretary Buttigieg there’s work to be done for ADA compliance

ADA multilevel weaving path through an airportADA multilevel weaving path through an airport
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Implementation of Americans with Disabilities Act in Transportation

MORE TO BE DONE from Curb to aircraft seat

Secretary Buttigieg has authority to fix

Think about your last trip through an airport (delete from your memory the delays) and consider that journey from street curb, to the ticket counter, depositing your bags, getting through the TSA inspection, going up or down levels to get to planeside and then boarding the plane. You can follow the signs and wend your way to your gate.

airport maze

Now contemplate that maze with impediments that do not limit you, but a blind passenger, a physically handicapped traveler or other person with a disability. That is the challenge faced by 25.5 million Americans have travel-limiting disabilities individuals[1] protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

That innocent threshold at the base of a door is an impassable block. The sign indicating where the restroom may not be as salient to others as it is to you. Ordering a hamburger is a test when the counter is 2 feet higher than your head. Once through this labyrinth, getting on board with your only means of moving is not a pleasurewheelchair line and industry is still trying to figure out a solution.

Travel has its benefits, but many do not have the same access as others.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg

All of these hindrances are connected, yet the solutions are being developed by different sources. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg holds the jurisdiction to protect aviation and other modes of transportation consumers. This problem demands your leadership and you alone can impact the flow of the ADA-protected people in every avenue of travel.


phases of ADA passage through an airport

Here are some aspects of this unfair restraint on travel to which the Secretary should direct his attention.


In a first, airport installs mock airline cabin to help fliers with disabilities

Travelers with physical, cognitive and other limitations can build confidence and reduce stress at the mock cabin at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.


…..In an industry first in May, the airport  — in partnership with Delta Air Lines  —  installed a mock airplane cabin on-site to give flyers with a wide range of special needs an opportunity to become familiar with a realistic aircraft cabin. 

MSP disability airplane mock up

Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport, in partnership with Delta, has created a cabin simulator where people with flying challenges can get the experience of flying without all the stress. Metropolitan Airports Commission

“Being able to test out an airplane cabin could help people who have never flown, who use wheelchairs, older adults, people with autism, and anyone who has any reservations about flying,” said Eric Lipp, executive director of the Open Doors Organization, which works with businesses on accessibility issues, “It will recognize that everyone’s needs are different and encourage more people to fly…

Discriminatory’: BBC’s Frank Gardner slates UK airports’ treatment of disabled flyers

Security correspondent, who uses a wheelchair, left on plane for fifth time in four years

Frank Gardner

A longer lead task is designing (redesigning?) aircraft to accommodate passengers who must travel by wheelchair. Here are journals from the last six years on this subject—

ADA’s 26th Anniversary—A Moment Of Recognition & Of Recommitment To Its Principles

ada text and plane seats

The DoT’s General Counsel’s has taken many (>40) public (i.e. embarrassing) and expensive (6 figure civil penalties) actions against the airlines [foreign and domestic, large and regional and even low cost], for violations of Part 382.

Hopefully, airlines will not set their goals to just meet these rules. Instead, management should view these passengers with the same sense of SERVICE that is the standard for all consumers. Their marketing departments spend millions trying to understand the needs/demands of the general traveling public (as well as important segments thereof); it would seem fair and right to approach the needs of their ADA customers with the same highest  level of care.


Disabled People And The Airline Experience—Some Insights

DOT Aviation Consumer Office

Traveling with a Disability

·        Wheelchairs and Other Assistive Devices

·        Assistance Moving Throughout the Airport

·        Seating Accommodations

·        Service Animals (includes emotional support animals)

§  What to Do If You Encounter A Problem While Traveling

§  Travel Tips for Persons with Disabilities

Aircraft Accessibility Solutions Can Be Designed By Safety Professionals Or Dictated By Government

All Wheels Up

The Airlines Must Stop Biding Their Time On Wheelchair Airplane Access

ADA poster

The Biden-Harris campaign planks includedTHE  BIDEN PLAN FOR FULL  PARTICIPATION  AND  EQUALITY  FOR  PEOPLE  WITH  DISABILITIES “  with quotes like:

break down the barriers to access for people with disabilities living …accessible and affordable transportation; and any needed long-term services and supports.”

“…Biden will appoint a director of disability policy within the Domestic Policy Council to ensure that these issues receive the attention they deserve at the highest levels of government and are integrated in broader policy discussions.”

“…Biden will expand access to accessible, integrated, and affordable housing and accessible transportation.”

  • “…Ensure that air travel is accessible to people with disabilities. Biden will work to pass the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act to ensure that airline carriers do not discriminate against people with disabilities, improving the enforcement of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which prohibits discrimination by airlines with respect to travelers with disabilities… In addition, he will also ensure that people with disabilities can receive compensation when disability equipment, including wheelchairs, are lost or damaged by transportation carriers.”

Creating Real Access For Passengers With Mobility Impairment Is A Conundrum With Multiple Dimensions



From the National Academies–

Technical Feasibility of a Wheelchair Securement Concept for Airline Travel: A Preliminary Assessment (2021)

research chairs

national academies











Transportation Research Board details efforts to make national travel more ADA accessible


In air travel, preliminary research from a TRB consensus report determined that no major design or engineering challenges stand in the way of exploring the market’s need for and technical feasibility of securing personal power wheelchairs in commercial airplanes. This would be a major boost for non-ambulatory travelers, who are not currently allowed to use their personal wheelchair as a seat when flying – unlike on trains, buses and more…

A separate report from the TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program laid out innovations and best practices for making air facilities accessible, from pre-trip planning to airport departure. This included implementation of more equal services to non-English speakers and those with sensory processing disorders as well. Other efforts in this area have provided guidance for older travelers and those with disabilities to utilize pedestrian wayfinding systems, overviews of transit systems’ application of new policies beneficial to those with disabilities and more.


As bad as all of this may be, the record for ADA Implementation is not good:

More than 30 years after ADA, cities fail to be accessible

Many cities are not building with people with disabilities in mind even after the Americans with Disabilities Act.





[1] According to the National Household Travel survey,


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