The Autistic Self Advocacy Network praises the Department of Transportation for its newly issued authoritative guide for air travelers who have developmental disabilities, airlines, and airline staff. The guidelines clearly state that Autistic people are individuals with disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Act and that airline staff are required to take their disability into account when establishing effective communication with the passenger.
Before the Department of Transportation’s guidance was issued, there were many reports of Autistic people and people with other developmental disabilities being denied access to and even removed from airlines on the basis of their disability alone. Under the new guidelines, airline staff must disclose within 10 days why they have removed someone from their scheduled flight if it was related to their disability. They must also modify their flight policies for a person with a disability before eliminating them due to safety concerns. The new guidelines clearly address what developmental disabilities are and explains typical behaviors or communication issues that might cause airline staff to misinterpret the person with a disability. The guidelines give valuable advice to airline passengers with disabilities, as well, and clearly state what they need to do in order to inform the airline of the in-flight accommodations they need.
These guidelines are the result of a mutually beneficial dialogue between the Department of Transportation and the Autistic community regarding the discrimination and difficulties faced by people with developmental disabilities in traveling. We applaud the Department for thoroughly considering and addressing the concerns of the Autistic community. ASAN will continue to watch for updates on how the guidelines have been implemented and whether they have improved airport and airline travel for people with developmental disabilities.
The new Department of Transportation guidelines can be found here.