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Interesting prototype could allow powerchair users to stay in their own chair on aeroplanes

Last Updated on 20/10/2023 by Samantha Lewis

Wheelchairs in the cabin - Flying Disabled presentation image

At last month’s British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) joint meeting for the Children’s Equipment, Independent Living, and Mobility sections, Chris Woods MBE from Flying Disabled and Josh Wintersgill from ableMove discussed wheelchairs in aircraft cabins and some of the barriers around flying as a wheelchair user.

The first-ever BHTA joint section meeting took place on 5 July 2023 at the Walton Hall Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire. It offered educational presentations for attendees and demonstrated the value of being a BHTA member.

During their presentation, ‘Wheelchairs in the cabin’, Chris and Josh highlighted an innovative aircraft prototype that allows powerchair users to stay in their own chair for the entire journey when flying on an aeroplane.

The powerchair prototype is part of the Air4All campaign launched by a consortium made up of PriestmanGoode, Flying Disabled, and SWS Certification, which raises awareness of the issues wheelchair users face when flying.

Typically, wheelchairs cannot get down aircraft aisles. The interesting prototype, which is based on the Sunrise Medical Quickie Q100 powerchair, means the user can stay in their own powerchair, which simply slots in the place of an aeroplane seat at the front of the plane.

It works by changing an aircraft seat for an able-bodied individual to being accessible for wheelchair users. This prototype would remove transfers altogether, enables the user to stay in their own wheelchair, and improves dignity for users.

See the prototype in action in this video.

As the prototype is based on one powerchair model, the consortium is aiming to create a prototype that works for many different powered and manual wheelchair models. Air4All’s current focus is powerchairs, but it will explore manual wheelchairs with custom seating for those with postural needs in the future.

ableMove is also looking at developing a postural seat to go over aircraft seats, for those with complex needs, as a medium-term solution while aircraft standards and designs improve.

Josh and Chris stressed that wheelchair manufacturers should educate airlines on the range of barriers users face when flying and work with them to help drive positive change.