Target: The Federal Aviation Association (FAA)
Goal: Revise airline regulations to allow passengers who require electronic devices for communication to use them during take-off and landing
As an author and advocate for autistic people, 17-year-old Carly Fleischmann does a lot of travelling across the nation, often on airplanes. Carly has a form of autism which prevents her from speaking verbally: however, she has learned to communicate by using a computer and typing, and now carries an iPad with her at all times and uses it as a means of speaking. FAA regulations generally do not allow passengers to use portable electronics during takeoff and landing for safety reasons. Flight attendants have usually exempted Carly from this rule in the past once she explained that she required the use of her iPad to communicate. However, on a recent flight, Carly was forced by a flight attendant to put her iPad away regardless, thus effectively silencing her completely for half an hour.
Certain specific airlines have already worked in regulations pertaining to the use of electronic devices for communication by those who require them: Air Canada for example allows use of any device that helps a passenger communicate at all times. Additionally, the FAA recently stated that they will soon be taking another look at whether they are willing to allow use of e-readers and tablets such as the iPad during takeoff and landing, given the advent of new technologies that has occurred since the official rules regarding use of electronic devices on airlines were made. Tell the FAA that, when they do, it would be right to revise policies about use of portable electronics to allow passengers who require these devices for communication to use them during takeoff and landing.
I am writing now to express my concern following a recent incident in which 17-year-old author and advocate Carly Fleischmann was forced to put away her iPad during takeoff and landing on an American Airlines flight, despite the fact that the form of autism Carly has makes it impossible for her to speak any other way. Although it is reasonable and understandable to ask most passengers to put their portable electronics away during takeoff and landing, Carly is not most passengers: by making her put her iPad away, the flight attendent was essentially forcing Carly to be completely silent for about half an hour worth of flight time. Carly’s story is disturbing, but it is probably not unique. Many disabled Americans are incapable of communicating in such a way that they are understood without use of a personal electronic device. Robbing them of the use of such a device may not only cause them discomfort, but also put them in danger: if they needed help, or had an emergency, they might not be able to ask for it articulately.
An FAA spokeswoman recently stated that your administration plans on revisiting the guidelines about use of electronic devices, specifically tablets like the iPad and ereaders like the Kindle. When you do, please be sure to make room for use of portable electronic devices for communication purposes by those who have no other way to communicate.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Flickr via caribb