The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits any discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities. The Department of Transportation (DoT) in recent years amended additional steps to address the accessibility of air carrier websites, kiosks and service animals. The DoT also issued a rule applying to all U.S. and foreign airlines with flights to or from the United States, defining the rights of passengers and the obligations of airlines under this law. The ACAA has made air travel possible for anyone despite one’s disability or condition:
- Airlines may not refuse transportation to people on the basis of disability. Airlines may exclude anyone from a flight if carrying the person would be inimical to the safety of the flight. If a carrier excludes a person with a disability on safety grounds, the carrier must provide a written explanation of the decision.
- Air carriers may not require advance notice that a person with a disability is traveling. Carriers may require up to 48 hours in advance notice for certain accommodations that require preparation time.
- Carriers may not limit the number of persons with disabilities on a flight.
- Airlines may not require a person with a disability to travel with another person, except in certain limited circumstances where the rule permits the airline to require a safety assistant. If a passenger with a disability and the airline disagree about the need for a safety assistant, the airline can require the assistant, but cannot charge for the transportation of the assistant.
The U.S. and international air carriers carrying flights or selling services in or to the U.S are also required to ensure that the content of their public-facing websites complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA. Core air travel services and information must be compliant:
- Booking or changing a reservation (including all flight amenities);
- Checking-in for a flight;
- Accessing a personal travel itinerary;
- Accessing the status of a flight;
- Accessing a personal frequent flyer account;
- Accessing flight schedules; and
- Accessing carrier contact information.
In addition, the website must be tested in consultation with individuals with disabilities or members of a disability organization(s) who use or want to use carrier websites to research or book air transportation in order to obtain their feedback on the website’s accessibility and usability. This consultation is required to ensure that the website is usable by individuals with disabilities.
An evaluation can also be done by a team of web accessibility experts, to identify barriers and deliver a solution that ensures equal functionality for all and to fulfill ADA compliance.