Think airplane bathrooms are tough to get in and out of? Imagine being in a wheelchair.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a plan to make bathrooms on single-aisle aircraft — used for most domestic U.S. flights and many shorter international trips — more accessible.
And we’ve all been there: trying to get in and out of the lavatory while you’re mid-flight can be a struggle, even for the most able-bodied.
The DOT’s ACCESS Advisory Committee — which includes airline representatives, people with disabilities and flight attendants — also is proposing a rule that would require airlines to offer entertainment for people who are blind and deaf. Airlines would need to offer some in-flight TV shows and movies that would be captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers, along with audio described entertainment for people who are blind.
“It is unfair to expect individuals with limited mobility to refrain from using the restroom when they fly on single aisle aircraft, particularly since single aisle aircraft are increasingly used for longer flights,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “It is also unfair for passengers who are deaf or blind not to be able to enjoy the same entertainment that is available to other passengers. I’m pleased that all involved parties are working together towards our common goal of universal access to the air transportation system. We are committed to is
suing a rulemaking to implement this agreement.”
The plan combines short-term and long-term fixes, the DOT said. In the short-term, airlines would have to make bathrooms more accessible or increase the size of the restrooms within three years after the final rule takes effect. Plus, the committee said the DOT needs to set better safety and maneuverability standards for the wheelchairs used on airplanes.
In the long-term, the DOT will propose a rule that airlines must offer on sinlge-aisle airplanes with more than 125 passenger seats an accessible bathroom similar to what’s offered not on twin-aisle aircraft.
The DOT is expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking based on this agreement in July.