What You Should Know About Air Travel and Accessibility
The Miami Herald recently published an article on the hassle air travel can be for wheelchair users. Although the government passed the Air Carrier Access Act, to prevent any discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel, there are still many limitations to the law that apply on aircrafts.
Take Malcolm Cumming, who cares for his wife, Deborah Livesey, who has multiple sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair for twenty years. In his interview with the Miami Herald, Cumming explained that about two years ago he accidentally broke his wife’s arm trying to get her into a lavatory that was not accessible during a flight to San Antonio, even though the symbol was on the door. He thought it would be safe to help Livesey in by holding her under her arms and pulling her in backward. However, the entrance was too narrow and her arm bone subsequently cracked as a result.
The Department of Transportation explained that aircrafts with more than one aisle are used for longer flights and transport the greatest number of people. They believe that disabled passengers will be more likely to need an accessible lavatory. Even then, most domestic flights, even across the country, are in a single-aisle aircraft. Unlike disabled-accessible bathrooms in buildings, which must have a diameter of at least 60 inches, airplane lavatories do not have to meet specific dimension requirements.
Wheelchair user and executive director of the Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living Barry Smith explained to the Miami Herald he’s been on flights lasting more than eight hours and most have been on a single-aisle aircraft. Smith uses a catheter when he travels and said that even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to access the lavatories on an aircraft.
Fortunately, it seems that changes could be in the works. Earlier this month, the Department of Transportation announced its intention to establish a committee to negotiate proposed amendments to disability regulations. The department spokeswoman, Caitlin Harvey said the committee will consider three issues, including whether to require an accessible lavatory on single-aisle aircraft over a certain size.