ST Engineering, in partnership with Acumen Design Associates, has announced the launch of Access, a new aircraft lavatory which, through the use of a moving wall, expands to offer passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs) 40 per cent more space.
The additional space creates a lavatory large enough to allow a passenger in a wheelchair and a carer, if needed, to enter and use the facilities with ease. It also means passengers no longer have to be transferred behind a curtain, providing them with the privacy and dignity every passenger deserves.
The innovative design is a direct replacement for the standard narrow-body E-lavatory at the aft door and Access can be retrofitted or line-fitted to both A321 and B737 aircraft. The controlled expansion is carried out by a crew member using a latch on the outside wall of the lavatory. Passengers can then use the space unassisted, or with the help of a carer or family member.
When unexpanded, the lavatory can be used as normal and has the same footprint as a standard module, meaning there is no reduction in galley space or existing seating capacity and airlines do not have to alter their cabin layout to benefit. However, through the clever use of space, the redesigned interior feels much larger than the standard E-lavatory.
To create an elegant and improved experience for all passengers, the lavatory also has a number of modern interior design features, including a secondary door that can be opened at an angle to create an expanded entranceway (24 inches wide) for an aisle chair; vertical, horizontal and fold-down grab bars to make both assisted and unassisted transfer as easy and quick as possible; a lowered sink height to enable use from a seated position; a range of feature lighting that includes curved floor-to-ceiling strip lighting; large vanity and full-length mirrors, as well as a side-shelf for personal items; and an anti-slip flooring and cutting-edge hygiene technologies, such as anti-microbial surface finishes and touchless faucet and flush mechanisms.
Detailed research was undertaken during the conceptualisation and design process, with disabled passengers attending a series of product-testing sessions to provide feedback and help shape the final interior design. Mary Doyle, founder and owner of Rocket Girl Coaching, has been named as one of Britain’s most influential disabled people and is an accessible aviation consultant.
As part of the research process she stated: “As an independent manual wheelchair user for many years, I’ve experienced the good and bad of aircraft lavatories. I have regularly flown both long and short-haul for over 25 years and believe there are four main things that can improve the on-board experience: more space, highly sanitised work surfaces, greatly improved physical supports for unassisted transfer and anti-slip flooring.
“And whilst lavatories serve a functional need, I believe they should look beautiful too, in keeping with an excellent customer experience.”
Carriers are not currently required by law to provide an accessible lavatory on single-aisle aircraft. With more long-range narrow-body aircraft entering service, there is no legal guarantee disabled passengers will be provided for – although this is expected to change.
Senior designer at Acumen Design Associates, Daniel Clucas, said: “Many disabled passengers avoid flying because of the compromises they have to make – especially when using the on-board lavatory. During our research we heard first-hand how those that do fly will even avoid using the lavatory altogether if possible. As more single-aisle aircraft take to the skies, Access can ensure disabled travellers have the space, privacy and support features in place to never have to worry about that again.”
Director of business development at ST Engineering, Cassandra Sexson, added: “Our vision was to overhaul the on-board lavatory experience and create an inclusive interior that improved the flying experience for all passengers. Having worked with Acumen to identify the main accessibility issues with current lavatory designs, Access is able to offer airlines an innovative new product that tackles one of the biggest issues faced by disabled passengers when they fly.”
The project marks the second collaboration between ST Engineering, a world leader in MRO services that is committed to pioneering new cabin interior products that improve the passenger experience, and Acumen Design Associates, one the world’s leading aviation design houses.