air travel

improving air travel for all people

adaptive travel

improving air travel for all people

air travel issues

October 2nd 2021 was the 35th anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). One of the core mission areas of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is to advocate for the civil rights of PVA members as people with disabilities. PVA has been involved in the push to improve access to air travel for people with disabilities since before the passage of the ACAA. Although the ACAA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in commercial air travel, little progress has been made in improving the process for people with disabilities, particularly those who use wheelchairs. This webinar provides updates on our efforts to make improvements to the process, including addressing wheelchair damage, ensuring lavatory access, and exploring the possibility of flying in your wheelchair. The webinar also includes tips on how to navigate air travel today while we work for a better tomorrow.

Peter Axelson’s presentation on Beneficial Designs research related to Air Travel issues begins in the video above at about 23 minutes into the presentation.

October 2nd 2021 was the 35th anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). One of the core mission areas of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is to advocate for the civil rights of PVA members as people with disabilities. PVA has been involved in the push to improve access to air travel for people with disabilities since before the passage of the ACAA. Although the ACAA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in commercial air travel, little progress has been made in improving the process for people with disabilities, particularly those who use wheelchairs. This webinar provides updates on our efforts to make improvements to the process, including addressing wheelchair damage, ensuring lavatory access, and exploring the possibility of flying in your wheelchair. The webinar also includes tips on how to navigate air travel today while we work for a better tomorrow.

PVA research

The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Research Foundation provided funding (PVA Grant #3028) to Beneficial Designs in order to conduct a research project to study and explore a variety of issues related to commercial air travel for non-ambulatory passengers. Beneficial Designs performed the project in collaboration with Jessica Presperin-Pedersen with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, IL. This project focused on issues related to boarding wheelchairs, aircraft seating, transfers, and protection of wheelchairs during travel. Beneficial Designs surveyed 695 wheelchair-dependent air travelers, conducting laboratory testing of existing aircraft boarding devices. IRB-approved human subject testing was performed on 56 wheelchair users to evaluate existing boarding wheelchairs and aircraft seating in order to develop seating modifications and design specifications for improved comfort and safety of wheelchair users when traveling. The RESNA Standards Committee for Assistive Technology for Air Travel (ATAT) was formed as a result of this work.

air travel issues

the following issues were documented and explored

the following issues were documented and explored

Wheelchair user seated in boarding chair tipping over in jetway

1) steep jetway slopes

The jetways to the aircraft are often steep with no level landings at the bottom resulting in boarding devices tipping over laterally when turned to enter the aircraft.

proposed solution

Develop technologies to level the surface in the bubble area of jetways.

Wheelchair user's legs carried while seated in boarding chair

2) boarding device issues

Non-ambulatory passengers have issues with current boarding devices.

proposed solution

Develop design specifications for improved boarding chairs for boarding aircraft and on-board aisle wheelchairs to get to the bathroom on aircraft.

Pressure map of boarding device with high pressure point shown in red

3) hazardous sitting pressures

Sitting on boarding devices and aircraft seating presents a hazard for persons without sensation.

proposed solution

Educate consumers and health care professionals who serve  persons without sensation to use appropriate seating accessories.

Wheelchair user transferring to boarding chair

4) dangerous transfer methods

Non-ambulatory passengers have issues with current boarding devices.

proposed solution

Develop and promote technologies, such as mechanical lift systems, that can limit the need for physical lifting and transferring of persons without the ability to independently transfer to the aircraft seat. Create standards for the training that must be provided to airport service contractors who assist passengers with mobility impairments.

Overhead view of wheelchair user pulled down aircraft aisle in boarding chair with hips wider than aisle

5) narrow aircraft aisles

Lack of specifications for the minimum width of an aircraft aisle leaves boarding device manufacturers unable to optimize the stability of their products.

proposed solution

Develop minimum aisle width requirements for aircraft to allow boarding devices to be designed for greater lateral stability.

Overhead view of wheelchair user trying to access small lavatory from aisle

6) lacking accessible lavatories

Medium and large single aisle aircraft have no bathroom large enough to accommodate larger and taller passengers, passengers who require a personal care giver, and non-ambulatory passengers using an on-board wheelchair to access the bathroom.

proposed solution

Provide one larger bathroom at the rear of the aircraft to accommodate passengers with different needs.

Photo of powered wheelchair severely damaged from air travel

7) mobility device damage

Manual and powered wheelchairs and scooters are typically stored underneath aircraft with the baggage, where they are often damaged.

proposed solution

A RESNA Assistive Technology for Air Travel standards committee will develop standards for the design of powered wheelchairs that are suitable for air travel and standard procedures for the handling of powered wheelchairs.