The United States proposes new rules to facilitate flights for travelers in wheelchairs

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The Biden administration announced Thursday that it was proposing new regulations on how airlines must treat passengers in wheelchairs, an effort aimed at improving air travel for people with disabilities.

Under the proposed rule, damaging or delaying the return of a wheelchair would be an automatic violation of an existing federal law that prohibits airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities. The Transportation Department said the change would make it easier for the agency to penalize airlines for mishandling wheelchairs.

The proposed regulations would also require more robust training for workers who physically assist disabled passengers or operate their wheelchairs.

“There are millions of Americans with disabilities who don't travel by air due to poor airline practices and inadequate government regulation, but now we aim to change that,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This new rule would change the way airlines operate to ensure that travelers who use wheelchairs can travel safely and with dignity.”

For people in wheelchairs, flying can be difficult and uncomfortable, and airline mistakes can make for an even more distressing experience. According to the Department of Transportation, more than 11,000 wheelchairs and scooters were misused by airlines last year.

The proposed regulations come in addition to previous measures by the Biden administration aimed at improving the flying experience for disabled travelers. In 2022, the Department of Transportation published a bill of rights for airline passengers with disabilities. Last year, the agency finalized new regulations to require more commercial airliners to have accessible bathrooms.



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