Congress Examines Ways to Improve Air Travel for People with Disabilities

The air travel challenges of people with disabilities took center-stage this week in Congress through two separate congressional hearings. Cure SMA used the congressional action to once again highlight the experiences and recommendations of individuals with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

This year, Congress must pass legislation related to the future of air travel in the United States. Known as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, this legislation is an opportunity to help improve accessible air travel for people with SMA and other disabilities. The U.S. House and U.S. Senate committees responsible for writing the legislation held hearings on Thursday, April 23, 2023 on passenger experiences and consumer protections, including for air passengers with disabilities.

In advance of the hearings, Cure SMA shared its “Good, but mostly Bad, and Ugly of Air Travel for Individuals with SMA” report with all Committee Members to help educate about the air travel challenges of individuals and families with SMA. In addition, Cure SMA President Kenneth Hobby highlighted SMA community recommendations for improving air travel for people with SMA in congressional testimony. “While air travel may represent the most obvious travel option due to distance,” Hobby noted in his testimony, “many adults with SMA and families with children with SMA avoid or only reluctantly travel by airplane due to uncertain, unsafe, and unsatisfactory past experiences.”

Congressional hearings highlights include:

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Hearing

  • U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois: “I must also express the disability community’s deep frustration that our aviation system still fails to make sure that every passenger with a disability is treated with dignity and respect.”
  • U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas: “One group of travelers whose needs we should pay particular attention to are those with disabilities … it’s not just the simple matter of getting where they need to go, disabled passengers deserve to travel not just safely, but they deserve to travel with dignity.”
  • U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin: “Despite the original Air Carrier Access Act passing over 35 years ago, airline passengers with disabilities continue to face significant barriers. All too often, travelers with disabilities encounter barriers such as damaged assistive devices and wheelchairs, delayed assistance, unclear communications, and a lack of onboard accommodations.”

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing

  • U.S. Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana: “It’s the entire experience from the curb of your home airport to the other curb of your destination and dealing with the crowds, unpredictable service hours, security lines, and sometimes fluid flight times. This doesn’t even come close to the challenging situations that passengers with disabilities experience when going through air travel.”
  • U.S. Representative Steven Cohen of Tennessee: “People with disabilities fly, and they should have the same rights as anybody else and be treated properly.”
  • U.S. Representative Rick Larsen of Washington: “Must consider all passengers, including those with disabilities. The latest US Census estimates 42.6 million Americans have a disability, with many having a mobility issues… We have to ensure that air travel is accessible, safe, and dignified for all passengers.”

Cure SMA will continue its advocacy on behalf of the SMA community through a series of direct meetings with key congressional offices. In addition, individuals with SMA and supporters can educate their own Members of Congress about the need to improve accessible air travel through Cure SMA’s Action Center.

Do you like what you're reading?

Help make a difference in the lives of people affected by spinal muscular atrophy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top