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Safety of Disabled Passengers
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This article addresses some of the additional considerations for air carriers and cabin crew aimed at facilitating the safety and comfort of disabled passengers including passengers with reduced mobility (PRM).It is particularly but focused on the carriage of disabled passengers who will require a carer to travel with them to ensure both their safety and that of other passengers.
No matter how self-sufficient an individual may consider themselves to be, if they meet any of the following criteria then they should not attempt to travel without being accompanied by a carer:
- will or may be reliant on supplementary oxygen,
- are incapable of feeding themselves,
- are incapable of moving from a passenger seat to an on-board wheelchair if available,
- are unable to communicate with cabin crew and fully understand their advice and instructions,
- are or may be incapable of using the available toilet facilities unaided,
- are incapable of administering medicines and medical procedures unaided.
The carer should be an able bodied person aged 16 or over. The carer should ensure that the carrier is aware of their status in relation to the disabled traveller so that they can be seated adjacent to them. They must be prepared to provide assistance in all circumstances. The role of a carer is likely to be especially important in assisting the cabin crew in cases of emergency evacuation of the passenger cabin, in the interest of both the safety of the disabled passenger and other occupants. They should therefore receive a specific safety briefing from cabin crew.
Air Carrier Preparations
It is essential that that an airline accepting any booking involving a passenger who is sufficiently disabled that a carer will need to travel with them ensures that they obtain adequate information about the nature and likely implcations of the disability and ensure that this is made available to their passenger ground handling personnel or agent at the airports concerned and through them or directly to the operating cabin crew on the day of travel. If the flight(s) involved will not be operated by the airline accepting the booking, then it is important that the designated aircraft operator is provided with full information directly and in advance.
Aircraft Operators should ensure that that have adequate procedures in place to ensure that aircraft commanders are always made aware before departure of the presence and cabin location of all disabled passengers on their flight and that those with carers are identified as such and by specific disability.
Disabled passengers/PRM passengers may not be seated in rows at or designated as nearest to emergency exits. However, practical considerations may indicate that they should be seated close to emergency exits but not such as to provide any potentia impediment to cabin crew or to constitute any obstruction of access to emergency exits or to emergency equipment.
Only one disabled passenger/PRM should be seated in each seat row.
Blind and Visually Impaired Passengers
Blind and visually impaired passengers should receive a special briefing on board by cabin crew before take-off in order to orientate the passenger to the surroundings and to acknowledge the procedures in an emergency situation.
Carriage of own wheelchairs
Wet (spillable) battery powered wheelchairs cannot be accepted for carriage onboard an aircraft.
Dry battery powered wheelchair can be accepted for carriage if:
- the battery is disconnected,
- the terminals are insulated,
- the battery is securely attached to the wheelchair.
Meru Travel Chair
Some disabled children are unable to travel in an ordinary aircraft seat without additional support. The Meru Travel Chair is a unique child restraint device that fits into a standard aircraft seat and gives postural support to enable disabled children to travel by air. The seat has European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approval for use onboard aircraft.
The seat can be used by children up to 35kg in weight provided they have a sitting shoulder height of between 320mm and 520mm (from base of seat to shoulder).
The Travel Chair and container weigh 6kg and can be stowed in the overhead locker.
- UK CAA Safety Notice SN-2012/015] : "Meru Travel Chair - Restraint Device for Disabled Children", issued 8 November 2012.