The advocacy group All Wheels Up thinks you should be able to stay in your wheelchair while you are flying, if that’s your preference. To reach this goal, the nonprofit is pushing for federal legislation to allow it, and also will begin crash testing wheelchairs to ensure flying while seated in one is safe.
First, the Legislation
The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act is wending its way through Congress, and this time around it contains four amendments addressing the disability community. One of those would require the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, in consultation with the DOT, to study how wheelchair users, both manual and power, could be accommodated with in-cabin restraints.
“We need everyone who uses a wheelchair or cares about someone who does to know about this bill,” said All Wheels Up Founder Michele Erwin. “If they want to fly in the safety of their wheelchairs, or want wheelchair accessible golf carts for gate transfers (another one of our projects), they need to reach out to their congressperson, tell them about this bill.”
Crash Testing Wheelchairs
All Wheels Up has a contract to conduct the first ever crash test of wheelchairs testing airplane restraint systems at an FAA-approved aerospace facility. Erwin is optimistic these tests will go well, based on the results of previous wheelchair crash testing done by the restraint company Q’Straint.
“A large majority of the work and reports have already been conducted, regarding crash testing wheelchairs,” says Erwin. “The FAA would only need to expand on the research already done from Q’straint, whose restraining systems have passed the 20 G crash test, while all air craft passenger seats have only passed a 16 G crash test. Due to this study alone, the FAA is excited to work on the crash testing wheelchairs for commercial flight.”
Erwin will be speaking in Washington, D.C. this July where she hopes to garner more support from Congress and key disability organizations. She encourages everyone interested in this cause to get involved. “We are asking our followers to reach out to their congress people to pass the bill and tell them why these two sections are important to them.”
By Maureen Gazda