Recently, our family went on a summer vacation to Florida, to our favorite place—Walt Disney World. This required that we get on a plane for the two hour ride from New Jersey to Orlando, Florida. In the past, when the kids were young, we were able to use the bathrooms on the flight, even though they are not even big enough for one person, let alone a mother and her daughter. Today, however things are different. Jen is a woman, with a disability, who needs a handicapped bathroom. Guess what? There aren’t any on short flights such as these.
This is something that I was amazed to find out, and that is that on most short domestic flights in the US, most of the planes flying those routes are Airbus 320 which only have very small standard lavatories—none for disabled people. In addition, originally, airlines were exempted from the Americans with Disabilities Act until it was revised in 1986 under the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act, which has required accessible lavatories on the wider- twin aisle planes. The DOT has an Access Advisory Committee which has been studying changes to the current law that would require more accessibility on the single-aisle planes such as the 737 or the A320.
Even the larger planes which fly overseas on long trips, don’t really have the kind of accessible lavatories that a disabled person needs. Most reports that I have read state that these lavatories are still too small to get a regular size wheelchair in, for someone to transfer out of and onto the toilet. Many folks with a disability claim to dehydrate the day prior to a flight, so that they will not have to use the restrooms on a plane. This seems ridiculous knowing that the airlines have made concessions to people so as to bring their companion animals on the flight with them. These “service” animals are important to that person, however I would think that solving the bathroom issue would be paramount to the companion issue.
‘Suffice it to say, Jen was okay for our trip, having taking care of business prior to our flight. One thing to note, however is that there are more delays today on flights, which can add to the time, someone is forced to sit on the plane. Our flight out of Philadelphia was delayed over an hour going out, and two hours coming back—time which could be made more difficult for someone with a disability who is unable to use the lavatory on a plane.
This condition is really unacceptable. I know friends who use a wheelchair and simply don’t fly anymore, because of the embarrassment or inconvenience of having to be “loaded” on the plane and into a seat by way of an aisle chair. This is more like a hand truck for packages than for people. Also, those who use a power chair, and try to take that chair on the plane, have found it to be completely destroyed, leaving them without their most precious asset.
This really is a call to action. We all need to let our Federal Legislators know that this present condition is unacceptable, and that people with mobility issues have the right to travel just like anyone else.