Airplane Restrooms: Challenges & Solutions

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In The News

It’s no secret that airplane restrooms are a tight squeeze. And sometimes they are impossible for a wheelchair user to even access.


airplane cabin

When you’re in a wheelchair and you decide to fly, your wheelchair won’t be stored in the cabin with you. Airplane aisles (and onboard restroom openings) generally aren’t wide enough to accommodate a standard wheelchair. So you will transfer out of it and into an aisle chair. From there, you will transfer to your seat on the plane. The aisle chair will stay on board in the passenger area, and your wheelchair will be stowed with luggage.

What do you do if you need to access the restroom during a flight?

You can ask an attendant to assist you with the aisle chair, transfer to that chair, then ask to be taken down the aisle to the restroom. If you can transfer to the toilet yourself, this route might just work, though be warned that privacy may be lacking. If you need assistance to transfer to the toilet, things could get tricky. And accessing the restroom might become downright impossible.

Solutions to avoid inaccessible bathrooms on airplanes

You might just have to plan ahead so that you can avoid using the restroom during your flight. “I have never used a restroom on a flight,” says Cory Lee, a travel blogger and wheelchair user. He limits his fluid intake leading up to the flight.

Some fliers have used adult disposable diapers during a flight, while others have used catheters.

Another tip is to use the restroom in the airport as near to the time of boarding as possible. And if you’re on a long flight, you may want to consider taking a sleep aid, as sleeping often helps make a long flight more bearable by taking your mind off having to go.

Remember that whatever route you take regarding in-flight restroom use (or lack of), it’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional about your plans. An overful bladder can lead to complications, particularly autonomic dysreflexia in some individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Are you a wheelchair user who has encountered this situation? Send your tips to us, and they might be featured on AbleThrive!

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