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Capitol Correspondence - 08.15.23

New Regulations Enhance Accessibility for People with Disabilities on Commercial Aircraft

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The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a final regulation to improve accessibility for people with disabilities on commercial aircraft. The rule mandates that new single-aisle airliners with over 125 seats must feature larger and more accessible lavatories. This requirement ensures that passengers with disabilities, along with attendants, have sufficient space to approach, enter, and maneuver within the lavatory. 

Previously, accessible lavatories were only mandated on airplanes with multiple aisles. However, the increasing use of single-aisle aircraft for longer flights highlighted the need for better accessibility. In 2021, such aircraft accounted for 86% of flights between 1,500 and 3,000 miles, double the percentage from 1991. This rule change aims to eliminate the challenges faced by passengers with disabilities, who sometimes choose extreme measures like intentional dehydration or resorting to incontinence products due exclusively to inaccessible restrooms. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed pride in the new rule, emphasizing its importance in ensuring equal access and dignity for all travelers. The regulation, issued under the Air Carrier Access Act, will take effect within 60 days of publication. However, implementation will occur gradually over several years. 

New single-aisle aircraft with over 125 seats, delivered three years after the rule’s enactment, must include enhancements like grab bars and accessible faucets. Furthermore, on-board wheelchairs should be able to partially enter the lavatory to facilitate toilet transfers. 

These regulations apply to new single-aisle aircraft with over 125 seats, either ordered 10 years or delivered 12 years after the rule’s effective date. Additionally, they extend to new aircraft designs filed one year after the effective date.