After Decades of Delay, Congress Mandated that the Department of Transportation Issue Rules about Restroom Accessibility on Airplanes


Denver, CO — Yesterday, Democracy Forward, on behalf of Paralyzed Veterans of America, petitioned a federal court to require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to comply with a Congressional requirement to issue rules about restroom accessibility on airplanes for public comment.

The mandamus petition follows reports that many new airplane restrooms are just 24 inches wide (nearly a foot narrower than an average porta-potty). In today’s filing, veterans with disabilities detailed the need to intentionally dehydrate themselves before a flight, use catheters while on a flight, wear protective undergarments, and take other extreme measures to assuage the stress and embarrassment many travelers with disabilities face when unable to access an airplane restroom during a flight.

“Disabled veterans have already sacrificed so much for our country,” said Carl Blakeexecutive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “The DOT should make compliance a top priority, ensuring these veterans and all people with disabilities can travel with dignity.”

Airplane manufacturers, airlines, disability groups and other members of a DOT-negotiated rulemaking committee developed a proposed rule intended to make airplane restrooms accessible for air travelers with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs. In 2016, Congress issued a clear directive that the agency should release a rule for public comment by July 2017, but to date, DOT has not released the rule. Furthermore, the agency has taken the additional step to remove the lavatories rule from the administration’s regulatory agenda.

“Air travelers with mobility impairments have waited decades for access to airline restrooms, and DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao is unlawfully and unnecessarily exacerbating that wait,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy.

The petition for writ of mandamus was filed November 28, 2018 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.


Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

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