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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