top of page

A Better Way for Wheelchair Users To Fly Safe

Article originally featured on Travel Pulse

Wheelchair users can find it difficult to travel by airplane; there is no designated wheelchair seat and no updated and comprehensive evacuation plan for someone who has a disability. An organization called All Wheels Up is trying to change all that.

All Wheels Up (AWU) is a disability advocacy group that works directly with the FAA, the U.S. Congress and other organizations to fund research for a designated wheelchair seat on airplanes. The organization is the only one of its kind to fund the research and development needed to make air travel accessible for all.

They’re also giving away free CARES harnesses and ADAPTS slings to travelers with disabilities.

“AWU started because I was traveling with my son and I saw how difficult it was to travel as a wheelchair user,” said Michele Erwin, founder of All Wheels Up. “AWU is the only organization funding research, like crash testing wheelchairs at an approved FAA testing facility to improve accessible air travel. We are also the only organization funding direct-to-community programs for safer accessible air travel.”

The organization’s new Fly Safe Today program is one of its direct-to-community programs, hoping to give away 200 CARES harnesses and ADAPTS slings each year to people with disabilities.

The CARES Special Needs harness is a supplemental double shoulder strap that can help with positioning people with disabilities in airplane seats. Used with the seat’s lap belt, it can better secure the person in the seat for the duration of the flight.

The ADAPTS sling is an evacuation device for emergency evacuations, in which the sling is the only way off the plane because wheelchairs are stored in the cargo hold. It can also be helpful for transfers from aisle chairs to airplane seats, providing a smooth, contactless transition.

To apply to receive one or both of these items, please email with your name, email, home address, phone number and age, along with a description of how and why the equipment will help you.

According to Erwin, the 1977 evacuation plan for airplanes is outdated. There is nothing in the plan that accounts for evacuating someone who is physically disabled. AWU is working to rewrite this plan, with the hopes that all airplanes will one day be equipped with an ADAPTS sling as part of their emergency supplies, as well as a designated wheelchair spot.

For more information about the work the organization is doing, please visit All Wheels Up.


bottom of page