Air Travel

Disability Access, Airports & Aviation

Wheelchair access to airportsClaims against airlines for disability discrimination are increasing, therefore it’s important for airlines to know what disability standards the law requires now and in the near future. A target date for more extensive compliance with disability standards was reached at the end of 2012, and another has been set for 2017. Most  spaces of aircraft and airports that are used by passengers are affected by disability standards. Seating, signage, boarding points, baggage, furniture, and even food served need consider accessibility. The law requires an overhaul of these facilities over time, in order to make travel more accessible for all people.

What is the relevant disability discrimination legislation for airlines?

In terms of disability discrimination, airlines are affected by the:

  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA); and
  • Disability Standards Accessible Public Transport Act 2002 (Cth) (Disability Standards Act).

Premises Access Audits

Access Audits for terminals are complex and involve auditing all accessible related parts of the facility. Typically these include:

  • Paths of travel including ramps, stairs, escalators & elevators
  • Emergency warning devices
  • Resting points & waiting areas
  • Points of boarding including aero bridges
  • Surfaces
  • Amenities, including toilets & showers
  • Signage & wayfinding
  • Lighting levels & hearing augmentation
  • Furniture & fitments, including internal & external
  • Contextual information – Disability Action Plans

In 2007, Australia signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in a global effort to promote the equal and active participation of all people with a disability. The Convention puts the responsibility back on society to ensure that all people must be provided with opportunities to reach their full potential, regardless of their situation or disability.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 (Com) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability.

The DDA encourages everyone to be involved in implementing the Act and to share in the overall benefits to the community and the economy that flow from participation by the widest range of people.

The Transport Standards were formulated under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and came into operation on 23 October 2002. The Standards establish minimum accessibility requirements to be met by providers and operators of public transport conveyances, infrastructure and premises. The Standards take into account the range of disability covered by the DDA and apply to most public transport.

A disability action plan enables an organisation to meet its obligations under the DDA. A Disability Action Plan states how an organisation will make changes over a period of time to reduce discrimination and promote equality of people with a disability.

An action plan prepared under the DDA must contain the following (s.61):

Review of current activities

  • Identify barriers through consultation with people with a disability.

Devise policies and programs

  • Identify strategies to address the barriers and use experts to help where necessary, such as Access Consultants.

Set goals and targets

  • Goals and targets must be measurable and achievable.

Define evaluation strategies

  • Set time frames for when the goals and targets will be reviewed.

Allocate responsibility

  • Identify who will be responsible for implementing each of the strategies and how progress will be reported.

Communicate policies and programs

  • Determine how the action plan will be communicated to all stakeholders, and identify any specific training or support required for staff.

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