With the kind of steps currently being undertaken by the U.S. federal airline regulators, air passengers with disabilities could soon see more of their needs being accommodated by airline companies. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the federal government is looking at various ways that air travelers with disabilities can have better access to, among other facilities and services, in-flight entertainment and bathrooms on single-aisle airplanes.
In a Federal Register posting dated 7th December 2015, the department noted with concern that the trend in the airline industry has been moving towards greater utilization of single-aisle airplanes whose bathrooms on both mid-length and longer flights are almost completely inaccessible to fliers with disabilities.
According to the programs director in charge of Open Doors Organization, Laurel Van Horn, although the use of single-aisle aircraft for short-distance flights was not particularly detrimental to the welfare of disabled passengers, such airplanes are now increasingly being used on long-distance routes like New York-Paris or New York-Seattle. Very few people, if any, would be able to go without having to use the restroom for that long.
Van Horn’s group, which is based in Chicago, advocates for people with disabilities in the travel and tourism industry.
Laurel further notes that aircraft manufacturers like Europe’s Airbus are already making A320s equipped with SpaceFlex restrooms that are capable of converting to a larger space with no loss of seats.
The executive director at Open Doors Organization, Eric Lipp, who is partially paralyzed and often relies on a scooter to move around, says that since fliers with mobility issues mostly rely on others to help them transfer to an airplane’s “aisle chair” so that they can be pushed to the restroom, thereby face an ordeal when the aircraft involved is a single-aisle.
Some of the proposed rules that the Transportation Department hopes can be adopted will be exploring how to:
- Enhance restroom accessibility on new single-aisle aircraft.
- Make sure that air travelers with disabilities get access to the same in-flight entertainment as other passengers, for instance, access to captioning for the deaf.
- Develop a single definition for what a service animal is to prevent people from falsely claiming that their in-flight pets are service animals.
Image source: flickr.com