What Does Brexit Mean for Accessible Travel?

With Britons voting to exit the European Union, I’ve had quite a few questions about what this means for disabled travelers. And although I don’t have a crystal ball, I can see at least one area that might possibly be in line for a change – air travel.

Currently the UK as an EU member country is bound to uphold the provisions of EU Regulation 1107/2006, more commonly known as the  European Union Passengers with Reduced Mobility (EU PRM) regulations. These regulations, which cover EU air carriers worldwide, as well as flights to and from EU member countries, afford disabled passengers some basic rights.

Under the EU PRM, airlines are prohibited from refusing service or denying passage to disabled passengers, or for charging for the transport of wheelchairs or other assistive devices. Additionally, the regulations make airport wheechair assistance the responsibility of the airport authority, not the airline.

So if the Prime Minister (or new Prime Minister) goes forward and invokes article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty for legal separation from the EU, will the UK still be bound by these regulations? Perhaps, but that would be a matter for the government to decide. They could decide to abide by the EU PRM, they could throw the whole law out, or they could decide to develop other – maybe even stricter — regulations.

It’s really anybody’s guess. The important thing to remember is that the whole exit process could take up to two years to formally complete.

It’s also important to remember that the Air Carrier Access Act still covers all flights to and from the US – even on foreign air carriers – so if you fly directly to the UK from the US, accessibility on your flight will remain unchanged.

As for the tourist attractions, lodgings and transportation in the UK, I expect little will change in the accessibility department. The UK has long been a leader in access, even before they were even an EU member. They have a National Accessibility Scheme that enjoys a large participation, and Continental-style showers have been the norm long before roll-in showers were even required in the US. And let’s not forget about the London black cabs – they are all required to be wheelchair-accessible. And that’s due to a UK law, not an EU law.

So in the end, I think we will see very little change, at least short-term. And although air travel is something to keep an eye on, I don’t think it’s anything to panic about. Like I said, they may even develop some tougher access regulations for air travel.

So if you’re planning a trip to the UK, don’t scrap your plans just because of Brexit. It’s still a very accessible destination, and I expect it will remain that way for a long time to come.