Airport Accessibility

Government Accountability Office Releases Report on Airport Accessibility

By PVA National Staff

Air travel for people with disabilities can be very challenging for a variety of reasons, including access problems at airports. In our nation’s airports, people with disabilities can face infrastructure, information, and customer service barriers. For example, complex terminal layouts and long distances between gates can be hard to navigate. Additionally, travel information is not always available in a format that is accessible to all.

According to stakeholders, while no solution meets all needs, a number of practices can help reduce or eliminate some of these barriers to equal access at airports. For example, some selected airports use external disability community and passenger groups to proactively engage in identifying barriers and developing solutions. Other airports have implemented technology-based solutions, such as mobile phone applications to make airport navigation easier.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a requirement for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review leading airport accessibility practices for passengers with disabilities, as well as required training for airline and contract service personnel who assist these passengers throughout the airport.

Earlier this month, GAO released the report, Passengers with Disabilities: Airport Accessibility Barriers and Practices and DOT’s Oversight of Airlines’ Disability-Related Training.

The report includes an examination of stakeholder-identified barriers that passengers with disabilities face when accessing airport facilities, accessibility practices to assist passengers with disabilities, and the efficacy of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) oversight of airlines’ disability-related training.

As part of its review, GAO examined relevant federal laws, regulations, DOT documents, literature, as well as information describing disability training provided by selected airlines and contractors.

GAO also interviewed a sample of stakeholders, including those at 16 U.S. airports selected based on size and geography, eight large and low-cost domestic airlines selected based on the greatest number of disability-related passenger complaints and enplanements, and six aviation service contractors working for those airlines. GAO also conducted interviews with DOT officials and 10 disability advocacy organizations, including PVA.

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