While reviewing the DOT’s proposed changes to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), I happened across an interesting question posed by the rule makers. They asked:
“Given this rule concerns travel, we seek comments on whether ’traveling’ should be added to the definition of ’individual with a disability’”.
Is travel a major life activity? On a personal level I’d have to say yes, but then again I’m addicted to travel. But that’s not what the rule makers are asking. They are asking if the legal definition of “individual with a disability” should be expanded as far as the ACAA is concerned.
To that question I have to answer no.
Why? Well, currently in order for a disability to be legally covered, it must substantially limit one or more major life activities. These major life activities are defined as things that the average person can perform with little or no difficulty and they can include things like walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing and learning.
To be honest, it’s hard for me to put travel on the same level as walking or breathing.
But it goes beyond that. If the definition were expanded to included travel, so would the legal population of “disabled individuals” protected under this legislation.
For example, if the definition were expanded, it’s conceivable that an overweight person could claim protection under the ACAA if they needed two seats or a tall person could claim protection if they needed more leg room. And let’s face it folks, that’s not why the ACAA was created.
No I’m sorry, but expanding the definition of a “individual with a disability” would just open up the door for abuse. I can see it now — everybody would be “disabled”. And in the end, the people who really need accessible services would have problems getting them, because the system would be flooded with “quasi disabled” individuals.
Bad idea DOT. Let’s keep the definition of “disabled individual” as it is today. Anything else would make a mockery out of the ACAA and all other civil rights legislation.