Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new rule requiring more accessible lavatories in airplanes. This rulemaking, which was permitted by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), would compel airlines to equip new single-aisle aircraft with restrooms that are sufficiently roomy for a passenger with a disability and an attendant who are both the size of a 95th percentile male to approach, enter, and move around as needed to use the restroom.
The U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “travelling can be stressful enough without worrying about being able to use the lavatory; yet today, millions of wheelchair users are forced to choose between dehydrating themselves prior to boarding a plane or avoiding air travel altogether.” “We are proud to announce this rule that will increase the size and accessibility of airplane restrooms, ensuring that wheelchair users are given the same access and dignity as the rest of the traveling public.”
The announcement made today expands on significant infrastructure accessibility investments made by the Biden-Harris Administration, including: Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the DOT has given billions of dollars to modernize airport terminals, including the installation of wheelchair ramps and accessible facilities among other improvements.
Through its All Stations Accessibility Programme, the DOT awarded over $700 million last December to upgrade aging rail and subway stations with lifts, ramps and other upgrades. The programme, which is supported by the infrastructure law, aims to make transit rail stations more accessible so that everyone, including those who use wheelchairs, push strollers, or find it difficult to climb stairs, may dependably access the rail systems in their communities.
For the potential future rule that would handle passengers using their own wheelchairs when they fly, the DOT has started laying the framework. The Department of Transportation is reportedly developing regulations that would mandate better training for airline employees who physically help passengers with disabilities or deal with battery-operated wheelchairs or scooters.