Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, Air carrier access act

The Skies Just Got Friendlier for People with Disabilities

We’re all a little anxious as we wait for our airline baggage after a flight. We hope that our suitcase will happily bounce down onto the conveyer belt and we can grab it and be on our way.

If our luggage is delayed or damaged in some way, it’s always a major irritant. We have to fill out forms and wait for the items to be returned or replaced.

But what if the damaged item is your wheelchair, walker or scooter? It then becomes much more than an inconvenience – it may literally cause you to be stranded at the airport for an indefinite period of time. This is especially true if it was a device specifically designed for you and your disability.

Fortunately, Congress has just passed a law that will make airlines more accountable. On October 5, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, H.R. 302, was signed into law. Among other things, this new law requires airlines to more closely track mobility devices on flights, as well as pay increased penalties for damaged equipment. Airlines are also required to enhance training for security officers on this issue.

One of our biggest challenges is to help people understand that our mobility devices are really an extension of ourselves, and should be treated as such. This new law brings us closer to that goal.

For more information, see the article below by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

https://www.nationalmssociety.org/About-the-Society/News/Society-Applauds-New-FAA-Law-Making-Travel-More-Ac

Posted in Air carrier access act, Emotional support animals, Service animals

A Registry for “Real” Service Animals?

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You may have heard about the passenger who attempted (unsuccessfully) to board an airplane with her “emotional support peacock.”

This and similar instances have heightened public awareness of a most unsavory trend – people boarding airplanes with their pets and avoiding the standard fees by referring to them as “service” or “emotional support” animals.

Among the many problems is that it casts an unfavorable light on people with legitimate disabilities who truly need to be with those animals during airline flights and in other public venues. When properly selected and trained, these animals (almost always dogs) can assist those with vision or hearing problems. They can also open doors, pick up objects, alert their handlers if they sense an epileptic seizure, and provide relief to those with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

To resolve the confusion, several airlines have tightened up their policies on service animals. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also proposed regulations which would provide much clearer standards on what animals can board and what questions can be asked of their handlers.

And some organizations are in the process of creating  national service dog registries, which would list only those dogs who have received training and have “graduated” to become legitimate service dogs.

This is an interesting concept and a couple of organizations are planning to launch their registries this fall. For more information, see the link below.

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/28/633076559/service-dog-registries-to-streamline-travel-for-veterans-with-invisible-injuries

 

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Posted in Accessibility for people with disabilities, Air carrier access act

Nothing “Fake” in this News Story about Service Animals

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We have recently been inundated with news stories about peacocks, turkeys and other assorted creatures, who are joining or attempting to join us on airline flights.

Not surpringly, this has occasionally resulted in conflicts between humans v. animals, animals v. animals and humans v. humans. Although these instances are relativly rare, the negative publicity casts a shadow on people with disabilities who genuinely need those animals in order to access airplanes.

It doesn‘t help that there is also tremendous misinformation out there about what the law actually says. That’s why it was refreshing to come across an article by the Washington Post that explains the issues in a very clear and easy-to-read style.

One of the most important points made is the following:

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) limits the definition of  “service animals“  to dogs and miniature horses, this is not true with the airline industry, which is covered by a different law – The Airline Carrier Aviation Act (ACAA).  Under that law, airlines are required  to allow certain other animals on board.  This is because unlike the ADA, the ACAA covers what are called “emotional support animals,“  animals that are not there to perform specific tasks, but whose job is to generally ease anxiety and provide a degree of security to their handlers.

Without these animals, some passengers with disabilities may not be able to access airplanes. And since accessibility is the heart and soul of all disability laws,  it must be fiercely protected.


The US Department of Transportation has recently issued proposed rules to add more restrictions on animals aboard airlines. In a subsequent post, I will discuss what I consider to be the pros and cons of these rules. In the meantime, I have provided links both to these rules and to the Washington Post article.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/amp-stories/service-and-support-animals-explained/

https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/service-animals-including-emotional-support-animalsv

Posted in Air carrier access act, Emotional support animals

This photo is just a joke, but…

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…if you’ve been on an airplane lately, you may have found yourself sitting next to all manner of creatures – including dogs, hamsters, snakes and birds. Their owners may tell you that they are “emotional support animals” and maybe they do provide a degree of serenity and comfort to those who bring them on board. But in addition, they sometimes pee, poop, snap at and strike other passengers.

This is not what the disability laws intended. Many people with disabilities truly need those animals: seeing-eye dogs, dogs that alert epileptics to oncoming seizures, dogs who pick up things, open doors and help their owners stay on their feet or propel their wheelchairs. But when these dogs are among a menagerie of untrained and and unruly animals, it’s easy to miss the good that they are doing and lash out at ALL people who bring their animals on board.

Under traditional rules, all a potential passenger needs to do is get a doctor to write a note saying that the passenger needs the animal to provide “emotional support” on the flight.  That way, the animal gets on the flight and the passenger saves the fee usually charged for transporting animals.

Because of some recent news stories and an increasing number of complaints, at least two airlines have tightened up their policies, and others are considering doing the same. The Department of Transportation has also invited public comments on this issue.

Read the excellent article below by Wes Siler of Outside Magazine  for more information.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2313991/flying-your-fake-service-dog-may-be-over?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=onsitesha    

Posted in Air carrier access act, Service animals

Punches fly in the sky over service dog

This was a deaf couple on an airplane with their service dog. That much I know, and I’ll let the FBI figure out the rest.

But it looks like it could be yet another situation where  anger erupted over people with disabilities legally using their service animals.  Or it could be that the deaf passenger himself instigated the violence, in which case the disability laws should not be used as an excuse.

No matter how or why this sorry situation unfolded, it reminds us that before we let anger take over, we should try to understand what we think we are seeing.

 

Posted in Air carrier access act, Emotional support animals

No peacocks allowed – American Airlines updates its policy on emotional support animals

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A few months ago, a passenger got some unwelcome publicity when she unsuccessfully  tried to bring her “emotional support peacock” with her on an United Airlines flight.

( See https://disabilitylawsandvoices.com/2018/01/31/keep-your-peacock-to-yourself-please for more information).

Since then, there has been an increase in news reports about ill-fated service and/or emotional support animals on flights. This includes a passenger who says she was told to (and did)  flush her emotional support hamster down an airline toilet, as well as a puppy who tragically died after being placed in an overhead bin. This and other negative publicity has caused several airlines to  re-examine their policies regarding animals on airplanes.

There’s no question that this is a very difficult issue. While airlines are required to allow service and emotional support animals on planes for passengers with disabilites, many passengers are taking advantage of the fact  that they don’t have to pay extra for animals they label as  “service” or “support” animals. That, along with the natural reluctance to probe into customers’ claims of being “disabled,” has resulted in increasing numbers of untrained and unruly animals on flights. And of course, the people who pay the highest price are people with true disabilities who really need those animals and who have trained them appropriately.

As a result, several airlines are re-examining their policies and trying to impose more structure while still following the law. One example is American Airlines, which has just announced a new policy that will go into effect on July 1. This policy will prohibit  amphibians, goats, hedgehogs, insects, nonhousehold birds and animals with tusks, horns or hooves from boarding their airplanes. An exception will be made  for miniature horses that have been trained as service animals.

The new policy will also require that customers traveling with support  or service animals submit documentation about their animals. They will also have to sign a form indicating that the animals will not be disruptive on the flight. While there’s not much that can be done mid-flight if an animal doesn’t live up to this promise, at least we’re moving in the right direction!

For more information, see the link below.

Ihttp://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-american-airlines-emotional-support-animals-20180514-story.html

Posted in Air carrier access act, disability civil rights, Service animals

Delta Airlines is Cracking Down on “Emotional Support” Animals

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In my last few flights, I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of canine passengers.  While I admittedly find them quite entertaining, I have also seen them get riled up and become aggressive. When I’ve asked if they are “service animals,” the owners have always lowered their eyes and mumbled that they are “emotional support” animals.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is a difficult issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That law clearly allows people with disabilities to be accompanied by service animals at stores, restaurants, etc. In addition, people with service animals generally cannot be made to show any “papers” or other documentation backing up their claims that the animal assists them with disabilities. And as long as the animal does not become unruly or aggressive, he and his owner cannot be told to leave the premises.

Emotional support animals, however, generally do not help with specific tasks, but their mere presence is said to be a comfort and anxiety-reducer for their owners.  This may be a very legitimate function for these animals, but emotional support animals are specifically excluded from the ADA.

They are not, however, excluded from the Air Carrier Access Act, which is the law that governs disability issues on passenger airlines. https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/passengers-disabilities

This law makes airplanes potentially much more freewheeling than restaurants or department stores. As the article below indicates, this has led to service pigs, service possums and even service snakes being allowed to board without challenge.

So what could go wrong? Not surprisingly, some of these animals have become aggressive and caused injury. That is why Delta is launching a new policy, requiring much more stringent documentation for emotional support animals on its flights.

We will see how it goes, but Delta is to be applauded for trying to put some order into the chaos that sometimes reigns in these airborne menageries. Not only may it restore some order, but it should help ease some of the stigma suffered by people with genuine disabilities, who are often thought to be abusing the law.

And I believe that the author of this ABC news story just made a typo in the second paragraph when he wrote that Delta will start requiring documentation that the animals are “trained and aggressive.” Remember, Spellcheck doesn’t catch everything !

http://abcnews.go.com/US/delta-air-lines-imposes-rules-tightening-leash-support/story?id=52469837

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Posted in Air carrier access act, disability civil rights, Disability etiquette, Public Perceptions of Disability

When Talking to or about People with Disabilities, Words Matter.


This photo is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a begger with his cap in his hand. But a lot of people don’t know that this is where the term, “handicap” came from. This is a big part of the reason why that term is now disfavored.

In addition, when you talk about a Black or Hispanic individual, you don’t usually mention their race first, if at all. This is why people with disabilities advocate for “people first” language. Rather than say, ”That’s a wheelchair-bound person,” why not say, “That’s a person in a wheelchair.” That way, you are identifying their humanity before mentioning their disability.

These may seem like unimportant issues, but it is our common discourse that helps mold the self-image of the people we are talking about. And for most of the people with disabilities that I know, they would like to be thought of first as who they are, not what they have. And that goes for me, too.

See the link below for more info.

http://adata.org/factsheet/ADANN-writingaf