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Suing the Airlines for Better Bathroom Access

The 1986 Air Carrier Access Act prohibited discrimination based on disability in air travel. One of its stipulations is that planes with two aisles must include a wheelchair accessible lavatory. Single-aisle planes, however, do not have the same requirement. Now one group is suing the Department of Transportation to change the law.

On Tuesday, July 31, the Paralyzed Veterans of America group filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Transportation.

At issue? Accessible lavatories on single-aisle planes.

While the regulations developed in response to the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act, which prohibited disability-based discrimination in air travel, require planes with two aisles to include at least one accessible lavatory, these guidelines have not been expanded to include the single-aisle planes often used for shorter domestic flights.

The Department of Transportation was supposed to propose new rules for planes with more than 125 seats, including onboard wheelchairs and accessible lavatories, by July 2017, but the deadline came and went without any new regulations passed.

Advocates fear that, without regulations, airlines will have little incentive to add larger bathrooms, since doing so would decrease the number of seats on board and cut into profits.

In a survey of 931 disabled people, the Paralyzed Veterans of America found that a full two-thirds of respondents said that inaccessible bathrooms were a key reason for why they avoid air travel. James Thomas Wheaton, Jr., a 52-year-old Navy veteran and treasurer for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, told MSN that being on an inaccessible plane can be “a horrific feeling. In my 30 years of being disabled, I feel the most paralyzed and the most limited in those settings.” Wheaton also noted that he has to do extensive pre-planning of food and fluids for flights over two hours if he knows he’ll have to remain in his seat.

The advocacy group Democracy Forward filed the suit in the 10th Circuit Court. Attorney Karianne Jones told MSN, “Essentially, the lawsuit is based on this notion that the agencies need to be acting with reasonable diligence and moving forward and not needlessly stalling.”


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Comments are Closed.
phillychuck August 11, 2018

Not being differently abled, but being 6'2" and normal weight, I find on the smaller planes (I'd include 737s), the size of the lavs are often uncomfortably small. This is part of the lack of biometric standards in aircraft furnishing and design.

appletreasures August 8, 2018

I suspect many of the people who would need these accommodations are military veterans. Their disabilities resulted from their service. The price of accommodations is next to nothing when compared to the price they have already paid. The one thing I would expect is that disabled folks would get preferred access NOT exclusive access like parking spaces. All lavatories are spaces for use of all.

sddjd August 7, 2018

"As a society we (a majority at least) have agreed that the added cost of making buildings handicap accessible (ramps, elevators on all multi-story buildings, depressed curbs at intersections) is the right thing to do." I work in this area frequently, and while this statement is true like many decisions society makes it usually falls on the individual to foot the bill for doing the right thing. If society (rightly IMO) makes such demands society needs to fund the retrofits necessary for compliance. Current designs meet current law; fix the laws and let new aircraft designs have these accommodations baked-in.

mogsta22 August 7, 2018

I think it is way past time for ALL airlines whatever their home country to be given a timescale at the end of which ALL of their aircraft are disability friendly. This has to be adopted worldwide and their needs to be stiff penalties for non compliance. I am able bodied and so are all of my family but I still feel strongly about this and if it leads to higher fares we should all suck it up and say it could be me or a family loved one or friend one day. The world today is selfish with no thought for the greater good of all.

POatParker August 7, 2018

The issue is human dignity. At what point do profits exceed human dignity? I would say the airlines crossed that line about 10 years ago! This trend to screw more passengers into tubes with finite area, has already gone too far! (Especially at American, thanks to the most un-customer centric CEO in the business! Doug Parker) They want to add more seats? Then add more planes!!! They cannot continue to treat human beings like animals! Like they say, kick a sleeping dog too many times, one day it will turn around and bite!