Help Make America Wheelchair Accessible
To My Fellow Disgruntled Wheelchair Traveling Friends,
For the past 45 years I've flown all over the world without access to an airplane bathroom, and dammit I'm sick of it! I want the same rights and lavatory access as all other Americans. I'm ready to fight for my rights! If it takes a Constitutional Amendment, so be it. Airline wheelchair travelers have been segregated and discriminated against for decades. It is no longer acceptable! Please join me in the fight to help change the world for wheelchair bound travelers!
Jim's Statement on Wheelchair Advocacy
The United States Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act ("ACAA") in 1986 and delegated its implementation to the Department of Transportation ("DOT"). While the ACAA improves the rights of disabled persons in many ways, it does not provide for accessible lavatories on single aisle commercial aircraft. Persons unable to walk to the lavatory simply cannot go to the bathroom.
The ACAA does address the requirement for accessible lavatories on dual aisle commercial aircraft, however, the accessible lavatories and aisle chairs generally function so poorly that they are rarely used.
The persons who drafted the ACAA knew that additional work was necessary to provide accessibility on single aisle aircraft, and we believe their intent was to correct these oversights. However no substantive work has been done for the past 25 years.
For any amendment to the ACAA to be enacted, the DOT submits proposed changes to airlines for comments and completes a "benefit / cost analysis." Naturally the airlines have fought these necessary changes because they contend airlines seats would have to be removed to accommodate larger, accessible lavatories. Therefore lower revenues and higher cost. For the past decade, and certainly post 9/11, airlines have encountered difficult financial times and have resisted removing seats and lowering revenues.
For the past 45 years I have been patient and hoped that Congress, the DOT, the airlines and manufacturers would work toward amending the ACAA to provide accessible lavatories on single aisle aircraft and make dual aisle aircraft functional. Nothing meaningful has occurred. Not even engineering drawings of substance.
Over the past 3 years, I and a business associate have explored the status of amending the ACAA. We have spoken with the DOT, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Alaska Airlines, the National Center for Accessible Transportation at Oregon State University, the National Center for Accessibility at Indiana University, manufacturers Boeing and Bombardier, and many other persons. We have toured the new Boeing Dreamliner and reviewed numerous existing and planned engineering diagrams for future accessible lavatories.
It is abundantly clear that (i) the airlines of the world do not wish to remove seats and install accessible lavatories since it might lower revenues, (ii) the manufacturers will not or cannot force the airlines to install a product not requested by its customers (iii) the DOT has not and will not push for functional change and (iv) all parties enjoy the status quo except persons unable to access the lavatory. Without exception, every person we have contacted concurs in the ultimate solution: it will take an act of Congress to change the status quo.
Without a strong advocacy voice, we believe another 25 years will pass with nothing accomplished. We just want the same rights as all Americans - the right to go the bathroom on a jet liner. Having no lavatory access on cross country flights is simply discriminatory to persons in wheelchairs. It is wheelchair segregation. It is often humiliating and it is no longer acceptable. Our advocacy task is to enrich people's lives and let disabled persons travel the world just like everyone else.
We anticipate working with Senators, Congressmen and persons in power across the country to lobby on our behalf to make all airline lavatories (both single aisle and dual aisle) accessible and functional. Airlines and manufacturers point to accessible lavatories but they are simply not functional for persons in wheelchairs. We can do better. We intend to visit Washington D.C in mass to make our case, and we intend to take our case to the people of this country and seek fairness and amend the ACAA.
We will seeking funding to bring and support a large contingent of persons in wheelchairs and their families to Washington D.C. to make our case.