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Your Rights When Traveling with a Vision or Hearing Impairment

by | Oct 25, 2019 | The Term Reporter, Travel

 

 Quick Facts 

  • If you have both severe vision and severe hearing impairments, then you may be required to provide 48 hours’ advance notice and check in 1 hour earlier than normal in order to receive accommodations.
  • All carriers in U.S. airports must make their information accessible “at each gate, ticketing area, and customer service desk” within the respective carrier’s control.
  • Your carrier must provide help with moving throughout the airport if you need it and request it due to your disability.
  • If you tell the carrier that you have a disability which requires a seating accommodation, then the carrier must make that accommodation if it is available on your specific plane.
  • In order to guarantee you will be able to receive seating accommodations, you must request them at least 24 hours before your flight’s departure time and check in at least one hour earlier than the general public.
  • Your carrier is required to permit canes and other aids into the cabin, provided they can be stowed in a designated area.

Introduction

According to the Carrier Access Act, carriers may not discriminate against individuals with a disability.1 In order to carry out this Act, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published part 382 in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).2 These rules outline many of the rights airline passengers with disabilities have and how carriers must accommodate these rights. All U.S. carriers must comply with these rules, and foreign carriers must comply for flights to/from the U.S.3 We have read through these rules, and this article will lay out what rights you have if you are someone with a vision and/or hearing impairment.

Before Your Trip

            According to the C.F.R., you are not required to provide advance notice that you will be on a flight.4 However, if you have both severe vision and severe hearing impairments, then you may be required to provide 48 hours’ advance notice and check in 1 hour earlier than normal in order to receive accommodations.5 If you do not meet these potential requirements, then the carrier must still make a reasonable effort to accommodate you without delaying the flight.6

At the Airport

            Even with a vision and/or hearing impairment, you will still have access to all of the same information as other passengers (as long as personnel can provide the information safely). If you have trouble accessing this information, you should notify carrier personnel. All carriers in U.S. airports must make their information accessible “at each gate, ticketing area, and customer service desk” within the respective carrier’s control.7

If you need help moving throughout the airport because of your disability, then you should request help from your carrier, as it is required to either provide or ensure help is provided.8 However, you will still be subject to standard TSA screening requirements, even if you are escorted by a carrier. Your carrier may also impose additional screening requirements. If the carrier reasonably believes that a prohibited item is hidden in your mobility aid or assistive device (e.g. cane), then it may examine it. But, if your aid sets off the TSA security system, then the carrier may search you and your aid. No other screenings may be performed on the basis of your disability alone.9

 Boarding and Deplaning

            If your visual or hearing impairment affects your ability to board and deplane, then you may request assistance. You may pre-board if you self-identify at the gate as having a disability which requires more time or help with boarding, stowing your mobility aid, or being seated.10 If you do not pre-board, your carrier is still required to provide assistance with boarding and deplaning, upon your request, through the use of various types of wheelchairs and/or motorized carts where applicable.11

On the Plan

Seating Accommodations

If you tell the carrier that you have a disability which requires a seating accommodation, then the carrier must make that accommodation if it is available on your specific plane. For example, the carrier must provide an adjoining seat if you are traveling with a reader, an interpreter, or an assistant who will perform tasks for you in-flight. Additionally, the carrier must provide an adjoining seat if your assistant will perform tasks that the flight crew are not required to do, or if your assistant was required by the carrier.12 In order to guarantee you will be able to receive these accommodations, you must request them at least 24 hours before your flight’s departure time and check in at least one hour earlier than the general public. Even if you do not do this, the carrier must still try to accommodate you reasonably, but it is not required to reassign another passenger’s seat for you.1

In-Flight Assistance

While on-board the plane, the carrier must provide the following services at the passenger’s request: (1) help with moving to/from your seat while boarding and deplaning, (2) help with the on-board wheelchair to use the lavatory, (3) help with stowing and retrieving carry-on items, and (4) effective communication to accommodate for your visual and/or hearing impairments.14 You should also note that the carrier personnel are not required to provide assistance within the lavatory, provide medical services, or assist with eating.1

Assistive Devices

Carriers are required to permit canes and other aids into the cabin, provided they can be stowed in a designated area.16 These items will not count toward the carrier’s carry-on policy, however, the number of mobility aids allowed could be restricted, so you should check with your carrier if you need to bring more than 1.17

More Resources

For additional information check out our articles on traveling with a service or emotional support animal, traveling with a medical device, and traveling with a mobility impairment

References

1 49 U.S.C. § 41705(a) (2003).
2 14 C.F.R. §382.1 (2018).
3 14 C.F.R. § 382.7(a)-(b) (2018).
4 14 C.F.R. § 382.25 (2018).
5 14 C.F.R. § 382.27(c)(10) (2018).
6 14 C.F.R. § 382.27(g) (2018).
7 14 C.F.R. § 382.53(a)(1)-(2) (2018).
8 14 C.F.R. § 382.91(a)-(d) (2018).
9 14 C.F.R. § 382.55 (2018).
10 14 C.F.R. § 382.93 (2018).
11 14 C.F.R. § 382.95(a) (2018).
12 14 C.F.R. § 382.81 (2018); 14 C.F.R. § 382.81(b)(1)-(4) (2018)
13 14 C.F.R. § 382.83(a)(1)(iii) (2018); 14 C.F.R. § 382.83(a)(2)(iv) (2018).
14 14 C.F.R. § 382.111(a), (c), (e), (f) (2018).
15 14 C.F.R. § 382.113(a)-(c) (2018).
16 14 C.F.R. § 382.121(a)(1)-(3) (2018).
17 14 C.F.R. § 382.121(b) (2018).

Authors

Matt Matsuyama

Contract Analyst Intern, TermScout  

Ben Golopol

Contract Analyst, TermScout  

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