Access Board to Assess Feasibility of Wheelchair Restraint Systems on Aircraft

jet image with International Symbol of AccessibilityThe inability to use one’s wheelchair on airplanes makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities. It requires multiple transfers between boarding chairs and aircraft seats, posing injury risks. Airline seats are a poor alternative to personal wheelchairs which are typically customized for the user’s safety, comfort, and specific medical needs. Further, passengers’ wheelchairs are stowed in the cargo hold and often damaged, mishandled, or lost as a result.

To address these challenges, theAccess Board is undertaking a study to assess the feasibility of equipping aircraft with restraint systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Congress directed the Board to study this question in its most recent reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The Board has enlisted the Transportation Research Board (TRB), which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences, to conduct this assessment and to issue a report. The Board and TRB will consult the Department of Transportation, aircraft manufacturers, air carriers, and disability advocates in the course of the study, as directed by the act.

“The Board is eager to examine this issue which has the potential to make flying safer and more comfortable for thousands of people who use wheelchairs,” stated Board Executive Director David Capozzi. “We look forward to building upon and advancing the work of other organizations who have provided critical leadership, advocacy, and research on this subject, notably All Wheels Up, Flying Disabled, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.”

TRB will organize an expert panel to assess and evaluate the feasibility of equipping passenger aircraft with in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. This panel will include experts in aircraft manufacturing, aeronautics, aviation safety, accessibility, disability policy, airline operations, and other disciplines. It will examine the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with locking or tiedown mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs used as seats. If such restraint systems are found to be feasible, the panel will then assess how they can be used to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs through all phases of flight, from boarding to deplaning. A peer-reviewed report on the panel’s findings will be published at the conclusion of the project and submitted to Congress. The report is expected by October 2021.

For further information on this study, contact Mario Damiani of the Access Board at (202) 272-0050 (voice), (202) 272-0066 (TTY), or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


Public Weighs in on Proposed Voluntary Guidelines for Aircraft Wheelchairs

onboard wheelchairIn August, the Access Board released advisory guidelines for wheelchairs used on airplanes and made them available for public comment. These voluntary guidelines specify dimensions, features, and capabilities for wheelchairs used during flights to access aircraft lavatories. The guidelines address maneuverability, stowage, stability, back support, restraints, assist handles, and other details. The published notice also posed a number of technical questions to the public.

By the close of the 60-day comment period, the Board received over 40 comments from various interests and stakeholders, including people with disabilities, advocacy groups, aircraft manufacturers, trade associations, manufacturers of onboard wheelchairs, researchers, and others. In addition, the Board held a public hearing on the guidelines in September that provided an additional forum for submitting comment. The docket, which includes all submitted comments and hearing testimony, is available on regulations.gov.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to supplement its regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to require onboard wheelchairs with enhanced functionality on certain single-aisle aircraft as part of a negotiated rulemaking to improve access for air travelers with disabilities. The Board is developing these non-binding guidelines as technical assistance to air carriers and manufacturers of onboard wheelchairs by providing an example of how to meet DOT's planned performance standards.

For further information on the Board’s development of these guidelines, contact Wendy Marshall at (202) 272-0043 (voice) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Mario Damiani (202) 272-0050 (voice) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


Access Board to Meet November 6

Board meeting webcastThe Access Board will hold its next meeting on November 6 from 1:30 – 3:00 (ET) at the Board's conference space in downtown Washington, D.C., as indicated in a published notice. The public is welcome to attend in person or through a live webcast of the meeting. A public comment period will be held during the final 15 minutes of the meeting.

Meeting of the U.S. Access Board
November 6, 2019, 1:30 – 3:00 (ET)
Webcast link: www.access-board.gov/webcast
Access Board Conference Center 
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

 


Upcoming Board Webinars

ab-laptop

The next webinar in the Access Board's free monthly series will take place November 7 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and cover access to leased facilities. Federal agencies must ensure that facilities they lease are accessible as required by the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). Standards issued under the ABA, which apply to facilities funded by the federal government, provide minimum requirements for facilities or buildings newly leased by federal agencies. These provisions address accessible routes, parking, toilet and bathing facilities, sales and service counters, joint use areas, fire alarms, and other elements and spaces. Presenters will review these requirements and explain how they apply to leased facilities. A representative from the General Services Administration, which leases facilities on behalf of many federal agencies, will join the Access Board in conducting this session.

The subject of the following webinar on December 5 will be trends in the design of restaurants and bars and the challenges they pose to accessibility.

Visit www.accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the webinar. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits. The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site.

Section 508 Best Practices Webinar
The Board also offers a free webinar series on standards issued under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which requires access to information and communication technology in the federal sector. The next webinar in this series will take place November 26 from 1:00 to 2:30 (ET) and will cover the steps federal agencies must take to ensure that the information and communication technology they procure complies with Section 508. Presenters from several federal agencies will discuss the acquisition lifecycle and the role played by the revised 508 Standards.

For more details or to register for this session, visit www.accessibilityonline.org/cioc-508/schedule. The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the Board.

 


Access Board Welcomes New Support Services Specialist

Shawntail PlotkeShawntail Plotke recently started work at the Access Board as a Support Services Specialist in its Office of Administration. She will provide various administrative services to support the agency's operations and management. Ms. Plotke previously worked as a Contracting Officer Representative at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Prior to that, she was employed by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Civil Rights as a Program Assistant. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Maryland University College, and she’s currently two courses away from obtaining her MBA from Western Governor’s University.

 


DOT Organizes Air Carrier Access Act Advisory Committee

DOT logoThe Department of Transportation (DOT) has organized an advisory committee under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to improve access to air travel for passengers with disabilities. The Committee will identify and assess barriers to air travel, determine the extent to which DOT is addressing those barriers, recommend improvements, and advise the DOT on implementing the ACAA. Last year’s reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration directed DOT to establish this committee.

The committee’s 19 members include representatives from disability and veterans organizations, passengers with disabilities, wheelchair manufacturers, airport operators, aircraft manufacturers, and air carriers. The committee is expected to hold its first meeting early next year. Within six months of the first meeting, the committee will submit a report to DOT and appropriate committees of Congress on whether revisions are needed to regulations governing ticketing, pre-flight seat assignments, access to bulkhead seating, and stowage of assistive devices. The committee is due to submit a final report on the needs of passengers with disabilities in air travel in November 2020.

Additional details are posted on DOT’s website. For further information, contact Vinh Nguyen of DOT’s Office of the Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (202) 366-9342.

 


Automobile Manufacturers Alliance Issues Report on Accessibility of Autonomous Vehicles

Report on AVsThe Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has released a report on improving access to autonomous vehicles (AVs). The report, “AVs and Increased Accessibility” is based on a series of workshops the Alliance hosted this summer that explored the transit needs of people with disabilities or who are elderly, technologies that increase vehicle accessibility, and the broader impacts of assistive technologies in transportation. Representatives from advocacy groups, industry, government agencies, including the Access Board, and others participated in the sessions.

The report summarizes findings from the workshops. It includes recommendations and conclusions on enhancing collaboration among stakeholders, accessibility requisites for vehicles, including wheelchair securement systems, input from people with disabilities in the design and manufacture of AVs, training opportunities on accessible and inclusive design for vehicle designers and engineers, and needed guidance from DOT and other government regulators and policy makers on applicable laws and regulations. Visit the Alliance’s website for further information on the workshops and the report.

 


Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.