The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Access Board will hold a virtual public meeting on December 16 to collect information on wheelchairs that are specifically designed for use on aircraft during flights. The agencies will use this information to finalize performance standards and advisory guidelines for aircraft onboard wheelchairs.
DOT is undertaking rulemaking under the Air Carrier Access Act to improve access to lavatories on single-aisle aircraft with 125 or more passenger seats. In January 2020, it released for public comment a proposed rule that would require aircraft lavatories to have various accessibility features, including assist handles, lower door sills, attendant call buttons, and controls and faucets that are easier to use. The rule also includes enhanced performance standards for onboard wheelchairs.
The Board, at DOT’s request, drafted voluntary design guidelines for onboard wheelchairs that would assist air carriers and onboard wheelchair manufacturers by providing one example of how to satisfy DOT’s proposed standards. These non-binding guidelines provide design criteria for onboard wheelchair seats, back support, armrests, footrests, movement, stowage, stability, loads, caster wheels, assist handles, and torso and leg restraints.
The Board and DOT are jointly holding the upcoming meeting to gather additional information from disability advocates, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, manufacturers of onboard wheelchairs, flight attendant associations, and other stakeholders. As indicated in a published notice, the Board seeks information on onboard wheelchair loads and caster wheels for its use in finalizing its voluntary guidelines. DOT seeks further information on its performance standards for onboard wheelchairs as outlined in a separate meeting notice. This notice includes questions on accessibility in the proposed standards, the cost and feasibility of compliance, storage on aircraft, crew training on the proposed standards’ use, aviation safety considerations, and other topics. The public is invited to provide information orally or in writing at the meeting. Comments also can be submitted to the rulemaking dockets according to the instructions provided in the meeting notices.
The public meeting will take place 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. (ET) on December 16 through the Zoom webinar platform. Attendance to the meeting requires registration by December 9, 2021. Requests to submit written materials to be reviewed at the meeting or to provide oral testimony at the meeting must also be sent via email to OBWpublicmeeting@dot.gov by December 9, 2021. Communication access real-time translation and sign language interpretation will be provided, but requests for additional accommodations because of a disability must be submitted to OBWpublicmeeting@dot.gov by December 9, 2021.
Public Meeting Regarding Onboard Wheelchair on Single-Aisle Aircraft
December 16, 2021, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Registration (free): www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register
Contact: Wendy Marshall of the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-202-272-0043 or Robert Gorman of DOT at email@example.com