The travel industry has made some strides in terms of accessibility for people with disabilities. In fact, many travel agencies are starting to specialize in providing packages for the non-traditional traveler, because the market has become quite lucrative. Despite all this, though, the travel industry still has a long way to go. Over the last few years, several airlines have been subject to lawsuits arising from the mishandling of wheelchairs and other devices upon which people with disabilities depend—mishandling which has resulted in broken devices that can cost thousands to repair.
Another problem people with disabilities face in travel is the issue of the travel itself. In general, the seats on airlines are not designed to provide proper posture or foot support for the traveler with a disability. This becomes a particular issue for children who have severe disabilities—airline seats aren’t shaped for children to begin with, which only exacerbates the problem for a child with a disability.
This is all about to change, however. The UK-based charity design and manufacture corporation MERU has unveiled a new TravelChair specifically updated and designed for the airline traveler from 3 to 11 years of age. The chair is an upgrade on a previous model and is adjustable to each user to ensure maximum support and comfort no matter how long the flight is. The chair weighs about 6kg (just over 13 lbs.) and can even fold in half to fit into an overhead compartment.
The first airline signed on to use the new TravelChair is Virgin Atlantic. Says Geraldine Lundy, the passengers accessibility advisor to Virgin Atlantic, “We’ve used the previous version of the TravelChair for many years to fly hundreds of children with disabilities around the world, and we are really pleased to know that we will enable many more children with disabilities to travel safely and comfortably to wherever we fly.
Of the project itself, Gilly Golesworthy of MERU says that they are “Working towards FAA approval which is very exciting and will open up a whole new world of possibilities for families with disabled children.”
Golesworthy says that Boeing and Airbus both want to display TravelChairs in their visitor centers, so they can be seen by over 300,000 travelers every year, a great opportunity to increase the device’s visibility.
In any case, it appears the TravelChair is another great option for children with disabilities who travel. Watch how it works, and let us know what you think!