This clever invention turns wheelchairs into airline seats

In 1986, Congress handed the Air Carriers Access Act. It was a landmark piece of laws that assured air carriers couldn’t discriminate in opposition to folks with disabilities. It’s why airways can’t restrict the variety of disabled passengers on a flight, and why plane are designed with armrests that go up and down.

However have you ever ever seen somebody sitting in a wheelchair on an airplane? You in all probability haven’t, as a result of for essentially the most half, private wheelchairs aren’t really allowed within the aircraft cabin. And that creates all types of issues for individuals who want their chair merely to sit down safely.

A brand new undertaking known as Air 4 All may make flying with a wheelchair virtually as simple as touring with out one. Designed by PriestmanGoode—a agency that has created airplane interiors for firms together with Airbus, United, and Lufthansa—at the side of the airline regulatory companion SWS Certification and the advisor Flying Disabled, Air 4 All is a patented system that might permit any wheelchair to lock proper onto a aircraft the place a seat would possibly in any other case go.

[Photo: Air 4 All]

The issue

If you’re a traveler with a incapacity, you may wheel as much as the aircraft in your individual chair earlier than most individuals board. Then an airline agent lifts you out of your chair, putting you into a particular, slim aisle wheelchair to be rolled to your seat. “It’s designed for the plane, not the particular person sitting in it,” says Chris Wooden, founding father of Flying Disabled.


The brokers are usually not skilled occupational therapists who perceive how the human physique can transfer. They’re simply airline staff. And when you attain your seat, they raise, prod, or shove you to get into it.

It may be a bodily invasive and even painful expertise. “I do know somebody [who was] dropped on an plane flooring who has spent six months in an airline hospital,” Wooden says. What’s worse: Airline seats don’t work for many individuals who want wheelchairs. Energy wheelchairs, particularly, don’t simply wheel you ahead with out straining your arms. They’re typically gadgets personalized to a single physique, offering thoracic assist, making certain somebody is ready to sit safely upright reasonably than hunch. Being strapped into an airline seat can really be harmful for some folks.

As for what occurs to your wheelchair when you’ve taken your seat? In restricted circumstances, a folding wheelchair can keep within the cabin. Often, it’s strapped onto a palette and saved in cargo. Your chair, which requires a prescription and is perhaps the worth of a automotive, sits with baggage.

[Photo: Air 4 All]

A greater manner

Air journey in a wheelchair is an ideal instance of how coverage alone isn’t sufficient to make sure fairness. We additionally must implement considerate design that considers the human expertise.

Air 4 All bridges this hole between coverage and UX. It’s made from two elements: One is a observe put in on the ground of the aircraft. The opposite is a bracket put in onto a wheelchair.

As PriestmanGoode demonstrates in its proposal, the Air 4 All observe can slip proper underneath a folding seat within the entrance row of a aircraft. It permits somebody to drive any wheelchair proper in to lock in place. The person expertise appears to be like much like the observe methods utilized by automotive washes, which safely information your wheel in earlier than permitting the machine to take management of your car. Security-wise, the system is much like the LATCH normal, which anchors child seats securely in autos, even throughout high-speed impacts.

A corresponding bracket is affixed to the underside of the wheelchair (a wheelchair may be retrofitted for this process). Usually, that bracket may be tucked out of the way in which, folding down just for air journey. A few of this work was accomplished at the side of Dawn Medical, a significant wheelchair producer.


The general Air 4 All design will not be solely good for customers. It’s additionally good for airways, which might get by with fewer brokers serving to transfer folks in wheelchairs—all with out doing something to scale back their typical seat footprint or ticket gross sales for able-bodied passengers.

“The Air 4 All system permits many alternative seat designs because the wheelchair and plane fixing bracket doesn’t work together with the seat itself,” explains Paul Priestman, designer and chairman of PriestmanGoode. “This permits completely different airways to design their very own Air 4 All seat to fulfill their very own distinctive service and model necessities.”

What’s subsequent? PriestmanGoode plans to debut a working prototype by the tip of the 12 months. In the meantime, the designers want airways to point out curiosity within the undertaking. For now, the Air 4 All staff is in discussions with one nameless service.

Wooden hopes to see airways step ahead publicly and decide to integrating the design, noting, “We should not lose sight of the human being we’re making an attempt to assist right here.”