Onboard Wheelchair Guidelines

Access board issues draft onboard wheelchair guidelines

By PVA National Staff

The U.S. Access Board has released for public comment advisory guidelines for wheelchairs used on commercial passenger aircraft during flight. These onboard wheelchairs are provided by air carriers as a means of facilitating the transfer of passengers with disabilities to aircraft lavatories since personal wheelchairs cannot be used in the cabin. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has expressed its intention to supplement its regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to include performance standards for onboard wheelchairs on covered aircraft. The Board is developing these non-binding guidelines as technical assistance to air carriers and manufacturers of onboard wheelchairs by providing an example of how to meet DOT’s planned performance standards.

The guidelines specify dimensions, features, and capabilities for onboard wheelchairs that will allow passengers with disabilities to be more safely and comfortably transported aboard airplanes in flight. In addition, the guidelines include criteria to allow the onboard wheelchair to fully enter the lavatory in a backward orientation and be positioned over a closed toilet, and for the lavatory door to be closed. This feature would afford those passengers who cannot independently transfer to the toilet to have privacy in performing non-toileting tasks related to personal hygiene or medical needs. The Board has posed a number of questions to the public about specific provisions in the guidelines but welcomes input on all portions of the document.

On September 12, Shaun Castle, Deputy Executive Director, testified during a public hearing before the Access Board regarding the proposed guidelines. Mr. Castle testified that PVA unequivocally believes that passengers with disabilities must have access to lavatories on single-aisle aircraft. He also noted that we believe there should be safe and dignified transport to and from the lavatory on these aircrafts. In the short-term, the over-toilet design would allow passengers with disabilities the opportunity to privately address many non-toileting hygiene and medical needs. However, if this design is deemed not feasible, he testified that the other proposed changes to improve the safety of these devices must move forward as some air carriers already have accessible lavatories on some of their single-aisle aircraft.

In addition to Mr. Castle’s testimony, PVA will submit substantive written comments for the record, which are due on October 21. Related information, including instructions for submitting comments, is posted at www.regulations.gov (Docket ATBCB-2019-0002).

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