This month a new federal law goes into effect requiring airlines to declare how many wheelchairs or motorized scooters they damage or lose.
This new rule will essentially allow wheelchair users to check a government website to find out which carriers are better or worse at handling their wheelchairs, an important item to their independence and mobility.
"It's really consumer-empowering," U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth told the Daily Herald. Duckworth is a war veteran and Hoffman Estates Democrat who helped pass legislation to speed up this new federal law.
Duckworth herself has had two wheelchairs break on flights between Washington and O’Hare International Airport. In one instance, the solid titanium rod that connects the seat and the frame had been broken and when she sat in it and she sunk to the ground.
"It's 5 inches long and 1-inch square. I don't understand how it could be snapped," Duckworth said.
She was offered an inferior model that didn’t even allow Duckworth to roll herself in it.
"My wheelchair is my legs and it can't be easily substituted," she said,
Before this new rule went into effect, it was unclear how many wheelchairs airlines had damaged or lost.
“We know there were 32,445 disability-related complaints of any kind filed with domestic and foreign air carriers in 2016," said Liz Deakin, spokeswoman for the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Airlines must report damaged or lost wheelchairs starting this month. The data will be available to travelers in February at the U.S. DOT’s Consumer Air Travel Reports website.