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Muscular Dystrophy Association Applauds Landmark Proposal on Accessible Air Travel at The White House

MDA Advocacy #AccessibleAirTravel campaign celebrates crucial milestone for disability community.

WASHINGTON, DC – February 29, 2024 – Today marks a historic moment as the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) stands witness to a groundbreaking proposal by the Biden Administration and the United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT), reinforcing the safety, rights, and dignity of air travelers with disabilities. This pivotal announcement, featuring remarks by esteemed leaders including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Senator Tammy Duckworth, and U.S. DOT Disability Advisor Kelly Buckland signals a profound commitment to inclusivity and progress.

A plane flying overhead with the text MDA Advocacy.
Muscular Dystrophy Association applauds landmark proposal on accessible air travel at The White House.

Proposal Highlights:

The Biden Administration’s proposed rule contains several recommendations to strengthen the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) that will improve the air travel experience for passengers with disabilities:

  • Creating new standards to require airlines to ensure that passengers using wheelchairs can promptly board the aircraft and de-plane, a sorely needed reform. Too often, wheelchair users are left waiting for assistance on the plane for 30 minutes or more.
  • Mandating training for airline personnel and crew members that assist with passenger seat transfers and stowage of passenger wheelchairs and mobility devices to reduce injuries and wheelchair damage.
  • Providing onboard wheelchairs to be available on most commercial flights to facilitate passenger mobility while onboard the aircraft.
  • Offering greater transparency to wheelchair users regarding the size constraints of aircraft cargo holds to ensure that passengers can travel with their wheelchairs.
  • Requiring airlines to provide passengers with options to repair and replace mishandled wheelchairs and mobility devices.

Donald S. Wood, PhD, President and CEO of the Muscular Dystrophy Association said, “I am immensely proud of the tireless efforts of MDA’s staff and advocates. They have made a powerful and compelling case to defend the rights and dignity of people living with neuromuscular diseases – and today, the DOT answered our calls for urgently needed reforms in transportation. This monumental proposal on accessible air travel reaffirms our commitment to serving families and we stand in solidarity with the disability community, championing inclusivity and accessibility in every facet of life. Today's announcement is a testament to the power of collective advocacy and reinforces our resolve to create a more inclusive world for all."

Paul Melmeyer, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, expressed his sentiments, stating, "On this auspicious Rare Disease Day, celebrated by the global rare disease and disability community, the U.S. DOT's announcement of this monumental proposal speaks volumes. It demonstrates a resounding message to the disability community: 'We hear you,' and we are dedicated to actionable steps towards true inclusion. We eagerly await the finalized rule and stand ready to offer our support."

Mindy Henderson, Vice President, Disability Outreach and Empowerment for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, emphasized the significance of this proposal, stating, "With the release of this monumental proposed rule on accessible air travel, we extend our gratitude to all members of the neuromuscular and broader disability community who united their voices in advocacy. This proposal represents a transformative stride towards empowering individuals to travel without the burden of fear, injury, or dehumanization."

Upcoming Community Event:

MDA Advocacy Institute: The Administration’s Major Air Travel Proposal

March 14 at 7pm ET

MDA’s Public Policy and Advocacy team led by Paul Melmeyer, Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy, MDA, will host an enlightening discussion on the implications of this monumental proposed rule at the MDA Advocacy Institute: The Administration’s Major Air Travel Proposal on March 14 at 7pm. Stay informed and engaged as we navigate the path towards a more accessible and inclusive world. Register here.

About Muscular Dystrophy Association

Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is the #1 voluntary health organization in the United States for people living with muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related neuromuscular diseases. For over 70 years, MDA has led the way in accelerating research, advancing care, and advocating for the support of our families. MDA's mission is to empower the people we serve to live longer, more independent lives. To learn more visit mda.org and follow MDA on Instagram, Facebook, X, Threads, TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube.