Airline iPad Policy Sparks Disability Dispute

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by sobore, Aug 16, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/08/16/airline-ipad-dispute/16266/

    American Airlines is taking heat for requiring a teen who is nonverbal to stow the iPad she relies on to communicate during a recent flight.

    Carly Fleischmann, a 17-year-old with autism from Toronto, lambasted American Airlines on her Facebook page earlier this week for limiting access to the iPad she uses to speak.

    On her way home from Los Angeles last Friday, Fleischmann said that a flight attendant told her to put away the tablet for takeoff and landing and was unwilling to bend even after Fleischmann’s aide explained that it was a communication device.

    “She stated to me that it was the policy of the airlines that I couldn’t have my iPad and that with all her years of flying that she’s never seen or heard anybody using an iPad to communicate before,” wrote Fleischmann, who said that her communication needs have always been accommodated by the crew on previous flights.

    “My iPad to me is like a voice. Can you imagine being on the airplane and (being) asked not to talk for over 25 minutes,” she wrote, adding that she was ultimately allowed to keep her iPad out after the captain of the plane intervened but the device had to be placed “in front of my seat out of my reach.”

    Read More: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/08/16/airline-ipad-dispute/16266/
     
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  2. DCtrAAveler
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    DCtrAAveler Gold Member

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    While I feel for her, and think there should be allowances for assistive devices (or regular devices used as such), No, I don't think it's unreasonable to "be asked not to talk for over 25 minutes." True, I'm not the most chatty person anyway, but frankly I'll go for hours on a flight without speaking except to interact with the FA for drink/meal orders.
     
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  3. Skye1
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    Skye1 Silver Member

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    The flight attendant involved is accurate in saying that he/she may never have seen an ipod/ipad used as an assitive technology device: I've worked with people with autism for a couple of decades, and can honestly say the ipod/ipad hasn't been around THAT long as an assistive communciation device, so it's quite likely the FA may have never seen it as such. Airlines need to ensure safety, and it seems good that AA has publically stood by their flight attendant in doing what he/she thought was their job. Sure, a special education techer in today's classroom may see them all the time....but a flight attendant may not.

    Sad that, by the comments on the page, this has morphed into "little girl against big company" scenario. It doesn't need to be that way. Technology like ipods, tablets, etc. is still new enough in the "assistive communication" arena for this to be an "opportunity" instead of a "fight." Glad to see a few posts on the page that are framing it that way.

    To her credit, Carly has spent most of her life not being able to say what she wants/feels in a way in which people can readily understand her, so to perceive of being deprived of a means to do that for a length of time is understandably frustrating.

    To AA's credit, there's sadly some rather evil people in the world who wouldn't think it wrong to pose as a person with a disability (and to do their homework in knowing how to do so convincingly), so caution is needed as well.

    If people can put their emotions & rants aside, this could lead to a rather healthy, & producitve discussion on how to move forward.
     
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  4. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    I think the time for these antiquated turn off all your devices for take off and landing to go away is now.they make no sense to me, especially when you can utilize them on "airplane mode". Hopefully times will catch up with regulations...
     
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  5. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    I wholeheartedly agree. There has been zero evidence (that I've been aware of anyhow) that shows that electronic devices cause problems with any function of the cockpit. I understand an overabundance of caution in air travel when the devices were initially introduced, but we should have more than enough data at this point to justify that at the absolute worst, you can have electronic devices in airplane mode and keep them on, and someone with a disability who NEEDS the device to speak can have it. Say she started having pain and the iPad was out of her reach or stowed, how is she able to communicate that to anyone, unless there is someone with her who can read sign language?

    Was I the only one who chuckled a bit when the FA said that "in all her years of flying" she hadn't seen someone use an iPad to speak? That technology is very very new. Of course it isn't going to be seen in the past. I don't fault the FA for following policy, but it's a very antiquated policy, in my opinion, and I'd fault the FAA more than the airline for not adapting the policy.
     
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  6. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    I understand the girl being upset, but the flight attendant was right. Rules are rules. Now, perhaps the rule should be changed, but that's a decision for the FAA, not the flight attendant on the scene.
     
  7. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Yeah why dont we all just ignore rules we dont like because we have some disability or because we read on the internet that electronics dont interfere with aircraft?

    I have no idea whether electronics interfere ( and I am pretty confident nobody here knows as well) but lets not miss the point if on the off-chance it does....the net effect would not like we are walking down the street is it? :rolleyes:
     
  8. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    If there is actually anybody who thinks there is an issue with safety related to this prohibition this FAA authorization to use iPads in teh cockpits to display approach charts and the other components of an Electronic Flight Bag ( EFB) might be interesting:
    http://www.faa.gov/other_visit/avia...afety/info/all_infos/media/2011/InFO11011.pdf

    In another thread somewhere i posted the entire regulatory history of that idiotic practice, which is, by the way, an airline by airline option, not a firm regulation. Airlines can say it is an FAA rule because once they write it into their operating procedures and the FAA has approved them the entire package becomes FAA regulation. It has zero to do with safety in any way.

    Here is one of the FAA approved iPad EFB's:
    http://www.globalnavsource.com/pdf/BrochureMedRes.pdf

    To have anybody have the temerity to refuse to allow a speaking-impaired person to use one is ludicrous, but is clearly prohibited in the cabin of most airlines, even as the flight crew are using iPads to retrieve aircraft data and flight charts.
     
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  9. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I have no doubt that the iPad is well-designed and safe to use on modern aircraft. Does that make every electronic device safe? For example, would it be okay if I pulled out my Raspberry Pi in all its nakedness, attached a battery and started fiddling with it during take-off? (I am not thinking of the case of someone thinking that it's a bomb). How about that el-cheapo $70 tablet from the Big Lots clearing aisle that causes my TV to show weird lines when I get too close? :)

    The question seems to be: do we want flight attendants to verify the safety of every device, just so we can read or play games for 15 minutes? For me personally it really isn't an inconvenience that I am willing to get too upset about. There are lots of others associated with air travel that are much worse.

    As for the case in the OP... I have no problems not talking for hours during a flight. I think a reasonable compromise would be for the passenger to not use the iPad unless there's an urgent situation to communicate.
     
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  10. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Thanks to you an others for discussing this matter in a calm and thoughful manner even when ones perspective/opinions on the subject differs.

    I cant but compare this thread to the internet lynching on FT where one poster has the temerity to oppose the rabid pack.:rolleyes:
     
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  11. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    That's a very fair argument. My counter point might be that people who perform studies on the topic would have thought of the possible distortions from other items besides personal gaming/productivity devices, and studied a range of devices. I mean, my dad's old hearing aid, when tuned properly, could dial in the Cincinnati Reds games. We lived 90 miles from Cincy. Could you imagine the list of items that MIGHT cause interference, and if they asked everyone with hearing aids to turn them off? What if I wanted to listen to an old school Sony Walkman? It's an electronic device.

    In the end, I do agree with the more cautious approach and don't have an issue turning my device off for 20 minutes while the plane is in ascent/descent. As for the girl though, it's probably something the ADA and the FAA have to work on together to adapt to today's technology. You can't empower a FA to make a call like that, especially when you have lawsuit happy people on your plane.
     
  12. ArizonaGuy
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    ArizonaGuy Silver Member

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    This would be akin to being asked to disable my hearing aids. They're technically FM receivers and transmitters and the two are always transmitting data between each other.

    I realize an iPad has far more functions than as just an assistive device so it's not so obvious that's the function it is providing to this passenger. I also realize hearing aids are generally obvious as assitive devices (well, if you discount people who never take bluetooth earpieces out - and I'm thrilled that trend mostly faded away).. But I'm glad to see that this at least starts valid discussion on the topic.
     
  13. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Yes, it's a fair question. I would indeed hope that the folks who design aircraft simply assume and test for the worst case. There's no way for the airlines or the FA to ensure that everyone turns off their devices (e.g., even though many FAs now explicitly say "turn off completely, not airplane mode", I'd bet a lot of phones will at best be in airplane mode at takeoff).

    Indeed.

    Yes, that girl's iPad is an assistive device for her, but the guy two rows behind her uses it to review power points and won't know the difference. And for me it's the "ADHD medicine" :)

    I don't think it's something that we can solve in this discussion, but it's good to see a friendly and polite exchange of ideas.
     
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  14. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    What that article fails to mention is that one of the pilots intervened and said it was okay.

    Different article source.
     
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  15. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    As iPads become more popular in the cockpit, replacing the paper flight books for pilots, there's going to be an even louder cry asking why electronics must be shut down if they pilots can leave them on. And they are about as close as anyone can get to some of the navigation equipment.
     
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  16. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    The OP states:

    “My iPad to me is like a voice. Can you imagine being on the airplane and (being) asked not to talk for over 25 minutes,” she wrote, adding that she was ultimately allowed to keep her iPad out after the captain of the plane intervened but the device had to be placed “in front of my seat out of my reach.”
     
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  17. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Good points.
     
  18. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    This post attempts to show a little of the history behind these rules.

    In the 1950's and before aircraft used things called Automatic Direction Finders (ADF) for navigation, which were AM radios that received signals from AM radio stations on the ground called Non-Directional Beacons (NDB). Many NDB's actually were commercial AM stations. Because an AM radio receives any magnetic signal lightening, a toy magnet or a two-way radio could and did change the signal. The biggest worry was lightening and a few airliners followed their ADF right into thunderstorms. In 1963 when high altitude flight and commercial jets were suddenly ubiquitous (the B707 and DC8 were introduced in 1958 after which commercial aviation changed forever) but navigation technology was still quite primitive and a passenger using an FM broadcast station onboard spawned an inconclusive study. However, everyone knew at the time that AM broadcast could and would distort ADF indications, so caution made the report imply a possible connection. Further studies all have ben unable to draw any proof of interference at all, and reports have been debunked, but caution still has ruled.

    Boeing has an excellent very brief summary that follows a "just the facts" approach. http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/aero_10/interfere_story.html

    In the meantime cellular telephones suddenly appeared in 1983. When those were used in the air cellular towers suddenly had the same telephone occupying space on multiple towers. As a result the FCC banned their use (800HZ only) in 1991
    http://www.fcc.gov/guides/wireless-devices-airplanes
    There have been numerous efforts to lift the ban since then because the technical reasons no longer exist due too spectrum reallocation and improvements in tower-telephone assignment protocols.

    Factually, in 2012, none of these restrictions have the slightest connection to safety. Aircraft built after 1984 all have 'hardened' avionics to resist interference (required due to the proliferation of strong magnetic and electromagnetic sources near airports). All parties concerned agree that nothing a passenger would carry today has any reasonable chance of causing interference. Still, reports from pilots who have made navigation errors continue to crop up from time to time blaming cell phone (they NEVER had anything to do with aircraft interference), laptops and PDA's, but Boeing has never managed to replicate that nor has the CAA (UK) nor the RTCA (cooperative aviation standards organization) ever managed to replicate any interference, not for lack of trying.

    PDA's have become EFB's and are becoming much more popular because they save weight, are more accurate and are easier to use than the old paper Jeppesons (ask any old pilot and you can hear about the chart updating problem. Most of them, including me, have made incorrect approaches due to failure to update those flimsy paper charts correctly). Nobody worries about interference because there is none.

    Thus, it is now a matter of time taht we'll be allowed to use PDA's at any time. It will not be fast, because each airline operating procedures must be changed, but it will happen. Cellular telephone use is already permitted on Air France international flights, and soon that too will be permitted to the delight of some and the horror of others. Personally, I'd like to keep them prohibited because I cannot stand listening to other people's telephone calls.

    So there it is. The complete history on these topics is interesting if you're an aviation history buff. Now, though, the facts are clear on all fronts and we're dealing with social policy, not technical risk.
     
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  19. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    Eh....my error. And apologies.
     
  20. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    Good post that explains the social/technical answer that most of us already have concluded.
     
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  21. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    Great Info!
     
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  22. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    I hope this will help spawn reasonable discussion on the topic with regulators, however I also don't think, given the rules the crew responded inappropriately. The attendants job is to keep things in order (safe). When a dispute arose that could "potentially" affect the safety of the flight...the Captain became involved and made a decision he felt appropriate for everyone on board. Would I want my communications device taken away from me, no. Do I want to not read my kindle app for 25 minutes while I sit in silence, no. Dialogue is needed, sensible regulation should be the outcome, but often that just isn't the end product.
     
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