What if there was a way for people with disabilities to take advantage of the latest technologies in air travel?
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While most people’s biggest concerns about flying are the ever-shrinking seats and available legroom, aircraft may be virtually difficult to enter, manage, or utilize for persons with specific accessibility requirements.
In the near future, genuinely accessible air travel may be feasible.
The Transportation Research Board (TRB), a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that conducts transportation research and innovation, has published a report titled “Technical Feasibility of a Wheelchair Securement Concept for Airline Travel: a Preliminary Assessment.”
According to the US Department of Transportation, about 25.5 million Americans have a handicap, with approximately 11% of them, or 2.8 million persons, identifying as wheelchair users.
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These people may struggle with the whole air travel experience, including boarding, checking their wheelchairs or scooters, and even sitting upright in a normal airline seat.
While there are about 2.8 million wheelchair users in the United States, only a tiny percentage of them utilize air travel. Those who do so risk being harmed during the boarding or deplaning process, as well as being physically handled in order to get access to their seats, which may lack the necessary support to keep them safe and stable. Additionally, their wheelchairs may be broken, damaged, or stolen throughout the journey.
The concept of developing in-chair wheelchair securement devices that enable wheelchair users to roll aboard aircraft and stay in their wheelchairs for the length of the trip was investigated in the study. The concept was put to the test for practicality, safety, and other factors, and it was determined to be feasible, safe, and beneficial to wheelchair users. It also suggested that further research be done.
The findings of the study came after one group, All Wheels Up, started financing research and development of a wheelchair space on commercial airplanes (AWU). It was the first group to advocate for accessibility on commercial planes, and it has published its own research and analyses.
Michele Erwin, the AWU’s founder and president, said, “Today’s TRB report represents a historic turning point.” It’s clearly obvious and scientifically supported that adding a wheelchair space to a vehicle may make travel more accessible. The AWU is looking forward to working with the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Congress to develop a road plan for implementing the long-awaited wheelchair space.”
When these wheelchair spaces become available, how long would wheelchair users have to wait before they can utilize them? That is a question that only time can answer. For the time being, however, the future of wheelchair users and air travel seems to be bright.
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