National Association of the Deaf

Air Travel



Have you ever missed a flight because there was a gate change and no visual information was provided?  Have you sat at a gate for hours wondering why your plane hasn’t boarded yet, because the only announcements made were over the loudspeaker?  Have you landed in an unexpected location because your flight was diverted, and the announcement made was not accessible?  Many deaf and hard of hearing consumers have experienced these problems.

The NAD has met with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to discuss these matters and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) rules.

It has become clear that deaf and hard of hearing passengers need to communicate their concerns more often.  In 2006, airlines received about 14,000 disability-related complaints, but only about 200 of these complaints were filed by deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind individuals.  The DOT received only 430 disability-related complaints in 2006 and only 480 disability-related complaints in 2007.  (The DOT does not report the number of complaints filed by people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.)  The DOT can investigate complaints received and can enforce the laws that apply to airlines.  When the DOT does not hear from consumers, the DOT does not know there are problems or where the problems are, so the problems continue.

You can help put an end to the communication access problems at airports and on airplanes.  If you notify an airline that you need communication access accommodations (notification is required if you want accommodations) and the airline does not provide them, please file a complaint with the DOT.

The NAD and the DOT have also discussed captioning of in-flight entertainment, such as movies and other video programs.  The current rules require only captioning of in-flight safety information, not captioning of in-flight entertainment.  The NAD strongly urged the DOT to establish rules requiring airlines to caption in-flight entertainment.

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National Association of the Deaf | 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3819