By Russ Choma
Dodson’s story seems to be fairly common. His chair has also been repeatedly broken by airlines, and as the national secretary of Paralyzed Veterans of America, he hears about airlines breaking or losing wheelchairs on a regular basis. Still, no one knows just how common it is or which airlines are the worst offenders. There is literally no transparency when it comes to how airlines handle wheelchairs—they are not required to keep or publicly release data on the chairs and motorized scooters they carry.
A new federal rule written by the Obama administration was supposed to change that. Beginning on January 1, 2018, the rule would have required airlines to track, and report on a monthly basis, how many wheelchairs and motorized scooters each airline carries and how many they break or mishandle. That would allow disabled travelers to easily assess which airlines to use and which to avoid.
But then Donald Trump’s administration stepped in. Just weeks after Trump took office, the Department of Transportation bowed to pressure from airline industry lobbyists and abruptly delayed the new rule—with no input from the public.
There had been no public comment, no notice given to any of the stakeholders who had participated in the five-year rulemaking process, and only limited explanation of why the rule had been delayed.