Late last year, the Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation (Access Advisory Committee) reached an agreement to improve the accessibility of on-board lavatories on single-aisle aircraft. The committee, which is comprised of a Department of Transportation (DOT) official, airline representatives, flight attendants, aircraft manufacturers, and people with a disability, proposed both short-term and long-term solutions to the problem.
The short-term solution would take effect three years after the final rule is published. It would require new single-aisle aircraft to have lavatories outfitted with pull-up handles, and toilets that are 17 to 19 inches high. The long-term solution would require new single-aisle aircraft to have wheelchair-accessible lavatories equivalent to those found on widebody aircraft. It would take effect 20 years after the final rule is published. Both solutions apply to single-aisle aircraft with more than 125 seats. Currently accessible lavatories are only required on widebody aircraft.
The DOT is expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking based on this agreement in July 2017, after which a public comment period – usually 60 days – will open. The DOT will then review the public comments and either decide to proceede with the rulemaking as proposed, or modify the original proposal.
The Access Advisory Committee was also able to reach an agreement on closed-captioned in-flight entertainment systems, but they were unable to reach a consensus on the appropriate definition of a service animal.