Aircraft interiors designer Paul Priestman presented Air Access system, a conceptual airline seat with a detachable wheelchair.
One of the crucial problems passengers with reduced mobility face when traveling by air is getting on and off aircraft, along with moving about the cabin.
"I love flying, and the thrill of seeing new places, but the process is a means to an end, not a pleasure," Martyn Sibley recently told Reduced Mobility Rights. Martyn has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which means he has to heavily depend on technology and other people support for just about everything.
Martyn explained what boarding an aircraft is for him. "At the gate I use a transit seat to be lifted by 2 people, and avoid being manhandled as much. The aisle chair is narrow but holds me tightly enabling me to be wheeled from my chair to my plane seat. The chair is then taken down to the hold." Martyn's greatest fear is being dropped while boarding or leaving the aircraft.
Paul Priestman, founding director of leading transport designers Priestmangoode, may have found the perfect solution to the problem.
"Passengers with special needs often face considerable difficulties when travelling by air, “ Priestman told Dezeen.com.“These difficulties usually go unnoticed – very few members of the public are aware of anxiety and discomfort PRMs can experience when travelling."
However, PRMs like Martyn Sibley are well aware of the challenges in today's air travel world.
“Air Access is a fantastic idea and an ideal initiative for prompting the dialogue on how to make air travel accessible for passengers with disabilities. I have heard of too many cases in which airline passengers have been made to feel like second-rate citizens, which is both distressing and demotivating,” Priestman explained. "I know this only too well. I travel by air frequently and at times it has been an ordeal. I welcome any action that tries to tackle this problem, and hope that Air Access will stimulate productive discussions between airlines, airports, seat vendors and disability bodies.”
The Air Access concept, which consists of two elements, is uncomplicated yet powerful. The two elements are a detachable wheelchair by which passengers can be transported onto and off of the plane, and a fixed-frame aisle seat on the aircraft into which the wheelchair is mated to create a standard airline seat.
The Air Access wheelchair seat should be made available at the departure gate, where the PRM is seated and wheeled onto the plane. Once on board, the wheelchair’s 360-degree pivoting wheels allow it to be slid sideways into the fixed-frame aisle seat without the passenger needing to get up. When the two elements are positioned, they are locked together for the duration of the flight. The same natural method is used to help the passenger off the plane.
Air Access could resolve other problems Martyn Sibley mentioned in his interview with Reduced Mobility Rights. "I am unable to get to, let alone get in the toilets and so I limit liquid intake. I sometimes use my toilet bottle or leg bag, but neither is ideal. I struggle to feed myself due to the seating position and therefore require more assistance from my Personal Assistant than usual."
Air Access has been designed with a removable seat pad to allow PRMs customise the seat to suit their individual needs by using individual purpose-designed cushions.
The revolutionary Air Access concept makes it easier to use toilet facilities in flight, since the passenger only needs assistance to unlock their seat and wheel to the nearest toilet.