DAA News Network

USA: Airline fined for illegal treatment of disabled passengers

Posted 10/9-10 at 02.08

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined AirTran Airways $500,000 for violations of the legal requirement to offer boarding assistance to disabled people. In addition, the airline frequently did not provide an adequate written response to complaints from passengers.

Of the $500,000 penalty, up to $60,000 may be used to establish a council to help the carrier comply with federal disability rules and hire a manager for disability accommodations. A further $140,000 may be used to develop and employ an automated wheelchair tracking system.

Editorial comment: It is extremely heartening to see government regulators acting so strongly against companies that violate the legal rights of disabled people.

Here in the UK airlines are not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). However, in cases in which people feel they have been discriminated against by shops, restaurants or other service providers, it is left to individuals, not the government as in the USA, to take legal action. Unless their case is supported by, for example, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the cost of going to court, with the added risk of possibly having to pay the costs of the other party, acts as powerful disincentive.

Because of this, for vast majority of disabled people the DDA in practice holds out little more than an empty promise. This shows that the battle for our equality is far from won. We must keep campaigning, taking direct action where appropriate and generally raising consciousness of human rights issues among both disabled people and the public. If we don't governments will feel they have done enough by having national anti-discrimination legislation or being a party to an international convention (the CRPD).






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