Disabled community would get better airplane lavatory access under rule proposed by U.S. DOT

Mark Prado

Accessibility of lavatories for people with disabilities traveling on new single-aisle aircraft would improve under a new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Currently, there is no federal requirement that lavatories on single-aisle aircraft be accessible to individuals with disabilities. The rule, submitted last Friday, would require airlines to ensure that at least one lavatory on new single-aisle aircraft with 125 or more passenger seats is large enough to permit a passenger with a disability (with the help of an assistant, if necessary) to approach, enter, and maneuver within the aircraft lavatory, as necessary, to use all lavatory facilities and leave by means of the aircraft’s on-board wheelchair.

The inability to use the lavatory on long flights can present significant challenges to passengers who use wheelchairs, according to the DOT.  

“Far too often, travelers with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to fly to their destinations because they can’t access the lavatories on most airplanes,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This rule would make airplane lavatories more accessible for passengers with disabilities, and bring us one step closer to the day when air travel is possible for everyone.”

Some passengers, knowing that they will not be able to use the restroom during a flight, dehydrate themselves. These actions can cause many adverse health effects. Other passengers use adult diapers or catheters, which they may find degrading and uncomfortable. Still other wheelchair users avoid flying altogether, the DOT notes.

“Paralyzed Veterans of America has been waiting for access to lavatories on single aisle aircraft for people with mobility disabilities since the passage of the Air Carrier Access Act nearly 36 years ago,” said Charles Brown, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “That’s 36 years of fasting, dehydrating, and developing medical issues as a result of a lack of access to inflight lavatories. We are pleased that the Department of Transportation is now moving this long overdue rule forward and see it as one step closer to equitable treatment. We cannot underscore the importance of having dignified access to lavatories for our physical health and well-being, and we must have lavatory access as soon as possible.”

The public and interested parties can submit comments on the proposal within 60 days of the date the notice being published in the Federal Register. The proposed rule can be found at Comments can be filed on, docket number DOT-OST-2021-0137.

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