The International Air Transport Association (IATA) last night (July 8) announced the launch of a global Mobility Aids Action Group, the first of its kind, to improve the transport of mobility aids, including wheelchairs, for travelers with disabilities.

Globally, over 1 billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, have some form of disability and 80% of the world’s Persond With Didabilities (PWDs) live in low-income countries.

Latest Philippine census figures that around 1.5 million Filipinos have disabilities. Of these, three in five were in the working age group (15-64 years old) and one in five, aged 65 years and above.

Last year alone, over 30% of flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL’s) passengers were aged 59 or older and of that group, 28% requested wheelchairs.

Now, IATA’S Action Group will tackle issues around the safe and secure transport of mobility aids—an issue of vital importance to a growing number of travelers.

It will also provide advice and recommendations to airlines and other stakeholders concerning the establishment of policy, process and standards related to the handling and transport of mobility aids.

“Every year, thousands of wheelchairs are transported safely by air. However, damage or loss is still occurring,” observed IATA Director General Willie Walsh.

“When it does, it is devastating to the passenger as these devices are more than equipment—they are extensions of their body and essential to their independence,” he pointed out.

“We acknowledge that we are not where we want to be on this as an industry. This is why we want to do something about it on a global level, not through setting up a talking shop, but by bringing the key groups together to take practical action,” Walsh explained.

The Mobility Aids Action Group will involve the full range of stakeholders impacted by this issue, including accessibility organizations (representing travelers with disabilities), airlines, ground service providers, airports and mobility aids manufacturers.

It will be the first time a mobility aids manufacturer will be invited to participate in an IATA task force.

“This is the beginning of a new day where the accessibility community has a seat at the table, ” according to Eric Lipp, Founder and Executive Director of the Open Doors Organization (ODO).

“The challenge of transporting assistive devices faces airlines across the globe and having IATA create this action group shows how committed the industry is to solve one of the largest accessibility topics,” he added.

“As airlines are just one link in the chain in the handling of mobility aids, it is essential we bring all players together to develop solutions,” Walsh added.

“What’s more, we are excited to invite a mobility aids manufacturer to the table. We think this is critical so all stakeholders can work together to take steps to improve the transport journey of mobility aids.”

As airlines rebuild, the industry is eager to build a more inclusive restart.

Source: Manila Bulletin (