Sally Wants to Fly

Seventeen-year old Sally O’Neil is in a sense fighting City Hall. Well, technically she’s fighting the Department of Transportation (DOT) and apparently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but I feel the results will be the same.

The issue? Well, basically she wants to fly in her own wheelchair. She’s not alone. I get a good amount of e-mail from other folks who want to do the same thing.

Sally has Cerebral Palsy, and according to e-turbo news, she wants the airlines to modify their planes so that their first row has at least one removable seat, so people can just roll-on and lock down like they do on a bus or even in their own cars. She is reportedly working with an organization called the Association of Airline Passenger Rights (AAPR) to accomplish her goal.

I understand her problem, as it’s difficult for many people to fly, and allowing them to stay in their own wheelchairs would help with trunk support and seating issues.

Unfortunately I don’t think she will be very successful.

First off she is barking up the wrong tree. She apparently is directing her effort to the airlines, and the fact of the matter is that they have very little control over the situation. The rules are set by the DOT/FAA and the airlines have to follow them.

Additionally the article states that it is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issue, and it’s not. Airline travel is not covered by the ADA at all. It’s covered by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which predates the ADA. And if you’re trying to get the law changed, you should at least be addressing the right entity

And it’s not like the DOT hasn’t addressed the “tie-down” issue before. In fact, in the most recent amendment to the Air Carrier Access Act (2009), the DOT commented that wheelchair tie-downs were not even under consideration because they “would be inconsistent with FAA safety rules concerning passenger seats on aircraft, since aircraft seats must be certified to withstand specified g-forces.”

Although I do wish Sally luck, and applaud her for her efforts, I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Like I’ve said, we’ve been down this road before.

Still it’s great to hear a story about a young person who?is getting involved with? access and advocacy issues.