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Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRP) Program: Enhancing the Accessibility of Air Travel

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Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRP) Program: Enhancing the Accessibility of Air Travel
Opportunity ID
Primary CFDA Number
Funding Opportunity Number
Funding Instrument Type
Expected Number of Awards Synopsis
Eligibility Applicants
State governments,County governments,City or township governments,Special district governments,Public and State controlled institutions of higher education,Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized),Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments),Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education,Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education,Private institutions of higher education,For profit organizations other than small businesses,Small businesses,Others (see text field entitled "Additional Information on Eligibility" for clarification)
Additional Information on Eligibility
States; public or private agencies, including for-profit agencies; public or private organizations, including for-profit organizations; IHEs; and Indian tribes and tribal organizations. Foreign entities are not eligible to compete for, or receive, awards made under this announcement. Faith-based and community organizations that meet the eligibility requirements are eligible to receive awards under this funding opportunity announcement.
Estimated Award Date
Funding Opportunity Description

Background:Use of transportation is an essential, everyday aspect of American society. Air travel in particular allows people to work, play, and visit in locations across the country and across the globe. Accessible and inclusive air travel is a key facilitator of independence, community living, and employment outcomes among people with disabilities.Annually, about 27 million people with disabilities travel by air (US GAO, 2022), though these numbers decreased significantly in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2022). People with disabilities tend to travel far less often than people without disabilities (Myers, 2022) and this may largely be the result of social and environmental constraints (Shu et. al 2019; Duerstock, 2019). As the US population ages in the coming years, the population of air travelers who are aging into disabilities is expected to increase and add to the pool of air travelers with disabilities who may face such constraints.A number of laws offer legal protections for air travelers with disabilities. The 1986 Air Carrier Access Act protects passengers with disabilities against discrimination by commercial airlines owned by United States companies. These protections apply to all aspects of passenger travel. The Department of Transportation recently issued a rule to amend the regulations for the Air Carrier Access Act. This rule requires airlines to make lavatories on new single-aisle aircraft larger and more accessible, to accommodate passengers with disabilities to enter with an attendant (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2023). Further, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by public entities, including entities within the air travel industry. The 2018 Air Carrier Amendment Act expanded the air travel rights for people with disabilities further by: (1) requiring changes in TSA procedures for agent training, (2) providing for civil penalties resulting from harm to passengers or their disability related equipment, and (3) required mandatory transparency from airlines regarding damage to or loss of mobility and other disability related equipment. (Presperin Pedersen, 2020; US GAO, 2022).Despite these legal protections, air travelers with disabilities experience a variety of difficulties throughout the air travel process. According to a national survey, 72% of air travelers with disabilities report that they experience major travel barriers with airlines, and 65% report travel barriers related to airports (Open Doors Organization, 2016). These barriers include limited accessibility of airline and airport websites; difficulties navigating the airport, including security checkpoints and retail spaces; inaccessible ticketing processes; difficulties accessing the resources and assistance needed to transfer on and off the aircraft safely; limited access to in-flight communication and entertainment options; inaccessible airplane bathrooms; and barriers to travel with service animals (Martín-Domingo, 2024; Paralyzed Veterans of America, 2022; Grahn and Jacquillat, 2020; Lazar, 2010).People with disabilities are also subject to attitudinal barriers from airline and airport staff and fellow travelers. Travelers with disabilities face the real-life consequences of mishandling of their wheelchairs and other disability related devices and service animals by airline and airport staff (Paralyzed Veterans of America. 2022). These barriers may lead to travel delays, personal injury, and the loss or damage of their property. In 2021 31 U.S. air carriers reportedly received over 32,000 disability related air travel complaints (US Department of Transportation, 2022). Still, people with disabilities are often unaware of or have limited access to the knowledge and resources about how to prevent, remedy or report these barriers and seek redress to protect their rights (Duerstock, 2019).Research about the experiences and outcomes of air travelers with disabilities is limited but growing. For example, researchers have explored the role of medical and rehabilitation professionals in meeting the air travel needs of people with disabilities (Presperin Pedersen, 2020). Studies have generated knowledge about attitudes and experiences of air travelers with disabilities (Kohl, 2020; Shu, 2019, Davies and Christie, 2017). Others have investigated the ways in which airport and airline design impacts the experiences of air travelers on the autism spectrum (Chiscano, 2021). Research has been conducted toward the development of accessible in-flight communication and entertainment systems for people with sensory disabilities, but more research-based knowledge is needed in this area (Eghtesadi et al, 2012). Studies are underway to test the feasibility and safety of passengers using their wheelchairs as seating aboard aircraft (Klinich et al., 2024; National Academies of Sciences, 2021). There is an ongoing need for research to better understand the needs and experiences of air travelers with disabilities. Research is also needed to identify and further develop existing practices and policies that facilitate inclusive and accessible air travel experiences and outcomes for people with disabilities. These research topics are especially important as the airline industry and the travel activities of people with disabilities are evolving and adjusting following the COVID-19 pandemic (Lamb et al., 2020). We establish this priority to further these lines of research toward positive air travel experiences, and related positive community living and participation outcomes among people with disabilities. References:Chiscano, M. (2021). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the Family Inclusive Airport Design Experience. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18.Cole, S., Zhang, Y., Wang, W., & Hu, C. M. (2019). The influence of accessibility and motivation on leisure travel participation of people with disabilities. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 36(1), 119-130.Davies, A. & Christie, N. (2017). An exploratory study of the experiences of wheelchair users as aircraft passengers – implications for policy and practice. International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences (IATSS) Research, 41,89-93.Duerstock, B. (Ed) (2019). Report on the Challenges of Air Transportation Experienced by People with Disabilities. Purdue University.…, C., Goldberg, L., Botkin, B., O'Connell, T. (2012). Accessible in-flight Entertainment Systems for Blind and Deaf Passengers. Ergonomics in Design, 20(3): 7-13. Grahn, R., & Jacquillat, A. (2020). Optimal escort dispatch for airport travelers with reduced mobility. Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, 111, 421-438.Kohl, S. & Barnett, E. (2020). What do we know about travel for children with special health care needs? A review of the literature Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 34., K., Orton, N., Boyle, K., Vallier, T., Eby, B., Bishop, J., Weissel, G., Manary, M. (2024). Evaluating Wheelchairs For Potential Use as Aircraft Seating: Static and Dynamic Frontal Test Conditions (Interim Project Report). University of Michigan. Lamb, T. L., Winter, S. R., Rice, S., Ruskin, K. J., & Vaughn, A. (2020). Factors that predict passengers willingness to fly during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Air Transport Management, 89, 101897. Lazar, J., Jaeger, P. T., Adams, A., Angelozzi, A., Manohar, J., Marciniak, J., ... & Walsh, J. (2010). Up in the air: are airlines following the new DOT rules on equal pricing for people with disabilities when websites are inaccessible? Government Information Quarterly, 27(4), 329-336.ín-Domingo, L., Adiloğlu-Yalçınkaya, L., Ertürk, M., & Farkić, J. (2024). Existing barriers and suggested solutions for dealing with air passengers with specific access requirements: A systematic literature review. Research in Transportation Business & Management, 53, 101104.Myers, A., Ipsen, C., & Standley, K. (2022). Transportation patterns of adults with travel-limiting disabilities in rural and urban America. Frontiers in rehabilitation sciences, 3, 877555.National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2021). Technical Feasibility of a Wheelchair Securement Concept for Airline Travel. Transportation Research Board Special Report.… Doors Organization (2016). "Open Doors Organization (ODO) Forecast". Travel and Tourism Research Association: Advancing Tourism Research Globally. 8.… Veterans of America. (2022). The ACAA Survey: Overview of Survey Results Regarding the Air Travel Experience of Passengers with Disabilities.… Pedersen, J. P (2020). Air Travel With a Wheelchair: Occupational Therapy’s Role in Facilitating Successful Flights.… Department of Transportation (2022). Annual report on disability air travel complaints received during calendar year 2021.… Department of Transportation (2023). Final Rule - Accessible Lavatories on Single-Aisle Aircraft.…. US GAO. Passengers with Disabilities: Barriers to Accessible Air Travel Remain. Statement of Heather Krause, Director, Physical Infrastructure. Administrator of the Administration for Community Living establishes a priority for a Disability Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) on Enhancing the Accessibility of Air Travel. The DRRP must conduct research to generate new knowledge that can be used to improve the airline travel experiences of people with disabilities, including those with the greatest support needs. To contribute to this outcome, the DRRP must—Focus its research and knowledge translation activities on people with disabilities as a broad population, or on specific disability or demographic subpopulations of people with disabilities. Specific disability subpopulations may include but are not limited to those described in NIDILRR’s Long Range Plan for FY 2024-2028: developmental, cognitive, sensory, psychiatric, and physical. Conduct research on the airline travel experiences of people with disabilities. This research should lead to an understanding of current barriers to and facilitators of accessible and inclusive airline travel experiences for people with disabilities. Barriers and facilitators may include individual, social, and environmental factors. Conduct research to identify and further develop promising strategies, practices, or policies for providing accessible and inclusive airline travel services for people with disabilities. Entities and organizations that implement such strategies, practices, or policies include but are not limited to airlines, airports, and airport authorities. Conduct its research under (b) and (c) in a specific stage or stages of research. If the DRRP is to conduct research that can be categorized under more than one stage, including research that progresses from one stage to another, those stages must be clearly specified and justified. These research stages are defined in this funding opportunity announcement. Applicants must justify the need and rationale for research at the proposed stage or stages and describe fully an appropriate methodology or methodologies for the proposed research. Conduct knowledge translation activities (i.e., dissemination, utilization) to facilitate stakeholders’ use of the knowledge and products that result from the research activities conducted under paragraph (b) and (c) of this priority. Stakeholders may include but are not limited to air travelers with disabilities, family members, personal care assistants, travel companions, airlines, airports, airport authorities, and policymakers. Involve people with disabilities and other relevant stakeholder groups in the design and conduct of research activities carried out under paragraph (b) and (c) of this priority, to maximize the relevance and usability of the knowledge and products to be developed. Demonstrate, in its original application, that people with disabilities from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds will be included in study samples in sufficient numbers to generate knowledge and products that are relevant to the racial and ethnic diversity of the population of people with disabilities. The DRRP must describe and justify, in its original application, the planned racial and ethnic distribution of people with disabilities who will participate in the proposed research activities. Work closely with the NIDILRR Project Officer to share relevant research progress and findings with Federal partners such as the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Access Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration.Definitions: Stages of research:Exploration and discovery means the stage of research that generates hypotheses or theories through new and refined analyses of data, producing observational findings and creating other sources of research-based information. This research stage may include identifying or describing the barriers to and facilitators of improved outcomes of individuals with disabilities, as well as identifying or describing existing practices, programs, or policies that are associated with important aspects of the lives of individuals with disabilities. Results achieved under this stage of research may inform the development of interventions or lead to evaluations of interventions or policies. The results of the exploration and discovery stage of research may also be used to inform decisions or priorities;Intervention development means the stage of research that focuses on generating and testing interventions that have the potential to improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Intervention development involves determining the active components of possible interventions, developing measures that would be required to illustrate outcomes, specifying target populations, conducting field tests, and assessing the feasibility of conducting a well-designed intervention study. Results from this stage of research may be used to inform the design of a study to test the efficacy of an intervention;Intervention efficacy means the stage of research during which a project evaluates and tests whether an intervention is feasible, practical, and has the potential to yield positive outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Efficacy research may assess the strength of the relationships between an intervention and outcomes, and may identify factors or individual characteristics that affect the relationship between the intervention and outcomes. Efficacy research can inform decisions about whether there is sufficient evidence to support “scaling-up” an intervention to other sites and contexts. This stage of research may include assessing the training needed for wide-scale implementation of the intervention, and approaches to evaluation of the intervention in real-world applications; andScale-up evaluation means the stage of research during which a project analyzes whether an intervention is effective in producing improved outcomes for individuals with disabilities when implemented in a real-world setting. During this stage of research, a project tests the outcomes of an evidence-based intervention in different settings. The project examines the challenges to successful replication of the intervention, and the circumstances and activities that contribute to successful adoption of the intervention in real-world settings. This stage of research may also include well-designed studies of an intervention that has been widely adopted in practice, but lacks a sufficient evidence base to demonstrate its effectiveness.

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Last modified on 06/12/2024

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