The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) sets out requirements for disability access at airports and on airlines. Generally the ACAA rules:
- prohibit U.S. and foreign airlines from discriminating against passengers on the basis of disability;
- require airlines to make aircraft, other facilities, and services accessible; and
- require airlines to take steps to accommodate passengers with a disability.
Here is a summary of the air travel rules as they relate to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind:
Information and Reservation Services Must Be Accessible: Information and reservation services must be accessible to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. If an airline provides telephone reservation and information service to the public it must make this service available to individuals who use a text telephone (TTY). This can occur through the airline’s own TTY, through telecommunications relay services, or through other technology.
Information at Airports Must be Accessible After Self-Identification: Passengers must self-identify to airline personnel that they are deaf or hard of hearing if they wish to receive accessible information. U.S. airlines must ensure that these deaf and hard of hearing passengers have prompt access to the same information provided to other passengers.
Televisions at Airports Must Have Captions Turned On: Airlines must display captioning at all times on all televisions and other audio-visual displays.
Communication on Aircraft Must Be Effective After Self-Identification: Passengers must self-identify to airline personnel that they are deaf or hard of hearing if they want to receive accessible information on the aircraft. U.S. airlines must ensure that these deaf and hard of hearing passengers have prompt access to the same information provided to other passengers.
Service Animals Permitted: Airlines must permit a service animal to accompany a passenger with a disability.
Safety Assistants for Travelers who are Deaf-Blind: An airline may require a deaf-blind passenger to travel with a safety assistant in some situations. Airlines are concerned about two main issues:
- airlines’ ability to communicate the safety briefing to deaf-blind passengers; and
- the evacuation of deaf-blind passengers during an emergency.
Airlines are permitted to put the burden of establishing a means of communication on the deaf-blind passenger. The passenger must be able to establish a means of communication with airline personnel for communication of the safety briefing and to enable the passenger to assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft in an emergency. If the passenger cannot do this, the airline may require the passenger to travel with a safety assistant.
Complaints: If you believe that an airline has violated any of the ACAA rules, you should file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT provides an easy to use complaint form online.