What Is Next For Accessibility On Airplanes?

CW: Death:

Delta Flight Products, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, unveiled the prototype at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. The concept is the result of years of collaboration, first among a group called Air 4 All, which includes the design firm PriestmanGoode, the advocacy organization Flying Disabled, the wheelchair manufacturer Sunrise Medical, and SWS Certification, which works to secure certifications for airline interior items.

This past year, US airlines damaged 11,389 wheelchairs and scooters. For wheelchair users, this damage is more than a minor inconvenience. Wheelchairs are often custom-made to fit their users. An ill-fitting wheelchair can have devastating consequences. In 2021, Engracia Figueroa died after developing a pressure sore, which subsequently became infected. She developed the sore after using a wheelchair that was loaned to her after her wheelchair was damaged by United Airlines.

The solution allows airlines to preserve current cabin designs and allows a normal seat to fold up to fit a wheelchair restraint. If there is no wheelchair user on board, it can be utilized like any other seat. According to PriestmanGoode, the prototype was designed for the front row of a narrow-body plane and could fit two electric wheelchairs, one on either side of the aisle. The headrest, center console tray tables, and cocktail table would be accessible to passengers.

The seat would not allow travelers to use their own chairs to enter restrooms; a manual transfer to the restroom using a smaller wheelchair would be required. Planes with more than one aisle must have an accessible restroom. However, per an agreement reached in 2016 single aisle planes are not required to have an accessible restroom. Unfortunately, this will probably be the case for years.

Accessibility on airplanes should be the norm. I am glad to see that Delta Airlines is creating a potential solution. Most of all, I want to see disabled people be able to travel on an airplane safely.


Brooks, Laken. “Disability Advocate Engracia Figueroa Died after an Airline Damaged Her Wheelchair.” Forbes, 9 Nov. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lakenbrooks/2021/11/08/disability-advocate-engracia-figueroa-died-after-an-airline-damaged-her-wheelchair/?sh=722eb0f310d7.

Sampson, Hannah. “Delta Unveils First Wheelchair-Friendly Seat.” The Washington Post, 14 June 2023, http://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2023/06/06/delta-wheelchair-seat/.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: