Single-aisle airplane bathrooms will be accessible for disabled passengers

An important change is coming to airplane bathrooms as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) now requires single-aisle airplanes to have accessible bathrooms for disabled flyers.

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has led the fight for accessibility for over 75 years and in the past 30 years, they've made progress in their fight against the non-accessible bathrooms for disabled passengers onboard aircrafts. 

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) entails single-aisle aircrafts to have lavatories large enough to fit a disabled individual and their attendant.

These lavatories will fit both passengers, up to the 95th male percentile to approach, enter and mauver inside. 

According to ACAA, accessible lavatories have been required on twin-aisle aircrafts for decades, but as single-aisle aircrafts are becoming more popular, sometimes traveling for 1,500 to 3,000 miles, about four hours, the need is heightened. 

Written in ACAA, the DOT recognizes that "It is an unfortunate reality that today, many air travelers with disabilities, knowing that they will not be able to use the lavatory during a flight, may dehydrate themselves or even withhold bodily functions so that they do not need to urinate."

PVA's Chief Policy Officer Heather Ansley responded to the DOT's policy, updated on August 1, 2023, stating that after numerous reports, lawsuits and advocating before Congress, she's overjoyed that "future passengers with disabilities will be able to address basic bodily needs with dignity while on an aircraft." 

After discussions, the DOT complied with installing grab bars, complying with ADA grab bar standards, attendant call button and door locks with braille, large fonts, contrasting colors and embossed symbols, faucets with temperature controls to avoid scalding, controls and dispensers discernable through touch and not requiring tight grasping, pinching or twisting, and lastly lavatories which will include a removable visual barrier for passengers who can't close the door, provided upon request. 

Additionally, ACAA requires airlines to provide flight attendants with training to assist disabled individuals stating, "The Department proposed to require airlines to train flight attendants to proficiency on proper procedures for assisting qualified individuals with disabilities to and from the lavatory from the aircraft seat. Such training would include annual hands-on training on the retrieval, assembly, stowage, and use of the aircraft’s OBW, and training regarding the accessibility features of the lavatory." 

These lavatory changes will affect airline prices. 

The ACAA predicts that by 2060, when all aircrafts have accessible lavatories, passengers would pay an additional $2.54 per ticket and for international passengers, an additional $12.28. 

The ACAA does not include a proposed timetable of when all changes will be met, but this policy stands as a groundbreaking win for the disabled community. 

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