Last year, I addressed the airline industry at its inaugural Global Accessibility Symposium, hosted in Dubai by the International Air Transport Association. I shared three main points with the audience — that the failures of airlines to fulfill their responsibilities to disabled passengers amount to civil rights violations in many jurisdictions, that airlines have elected to maintain the status quo and that the issues facing disabled passengers should be addressed with great urgency.
Following the symposium, I was generally upbeat about the future of aviation accessibility because I believed that IATA wanted to become an ally to the disability community and would drag its member airlines forward if necessary.
I was wrong.
IATA is a trade association and its job is to protect, defend and advocate for the positions of its member airlines, no matter the effect those actions have on passengers. In a broad sense, air travel has become less accessible since my first flight with a disability in 2014. Airplanes without accessible bathrooms are flying between continents, seats are designed with immovable barriers and airlines are imposing arbitrary weight limits on power wheelchairs.
Without substantial government regulatory and enforcement action, the industry is likely to become less accessible each year as innovation outpaces regulation. No airline has ever provided accessibility because it is the right thing to do — they have always been forced to by national or international standards.
Although my optimism in the progress that these events can bring is waning, it is still worthwhile to pay attention to the discussion. If you would like to attend this year’s virtual IATA Global Accessibility Symposium, you can sign-up by clicking here. The symposium will take place on Tuesday, October 27 and Wednesday, October 28, starting at 9:00 a.m. EDT. There is no cost to attend the event.
To review the agenda, click here.