Few able-bodied people can imagine the humiliation disability travel can bring like having to urinate into a bottle while staying in your airline seat, or the pain of forcing yourself to go a full 24 hours without drinking liquids to avoid having to urinate, but this is the reality for many air travelers who use wheelchairs, according to a recent survey by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign in the United Kingdom. Travelers reported damage to wheelchairs while trying to access toilets and inaccessibility to bathrooms on flights.
The number of people affected by non-accessible restrooms on flights is staggering. The survey showed that 90 percent of wheelchair users are not able to access the airlines’ on-board toilets.
Muscular Dystrophy Campaign spokeswoman Tnayi Vyas said, “The airline industry needs to catch up with other mainstream modes of transport in order to cater for disabled passengers. If we can fly a man to the moon, we can put a wheelchair-accessible toilet on an aeroplane.”
“Our investigation has found that the process of traveling by air is for many a source of anxiety and embarrassment, regularly leading to holidays being ruined, equipment being damaged and disabled people being put off flying for good,” she added. “This report should be a wake-up call on the need to drastically overhaul services, in order to meet disabled customers’ basic needs. It is time for [the] disabled customer to be able to trust airlines and feel confident when flying.”
Leah Hobson, of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations commented that “disabled passengers face an array of challenges in terms of accessing air travel. There’s a lack of physical access, and the need to pay for a carer to come along on a flight or pay for an extra seat to have an oxygen tank.”
“There are also concerns about equipment and wheelchair damage, as well as the limits placed on the number of people who need assistance on a flight,” she added.
In addition to lack of access to restrooms, nearly half of all travelers with disabilities experienced difficulty in booking desired flights, a problem that requires extensive phone calls or humiliating arguments at check in.
What challenges do you face when flying to visit family and friends or take a vacation?