Knowing firsthand just how painful sitting in an airplane seat can be, Montreal’s Sandra Gualtieri, who has cerebral palsy, designed a custom airplane seat for people with disabilities.
“What most people don’t know is people with disabilities have special seats on their mobility devices which are catered to them,” Gualtieri told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.
“So a chair somewhere else is extremely painful, especially for a long period of time.”
Gualtieri conducted a small survey of persons with disabilities and found 72% of respondents indicated that they experience pain or discomfort sitting in airplane seats.
“Even though we are a minority population, we still have rights like everyone else in society,” she said. “That’s important for people to remember. We have the right to travel in dignity.”
Four mechanical engineering students at Montreal’s McGill University worked with Gualtieri on designing the custom airplane seat.
“It’s so unique, yet it’s so simple,” said Gualtieri. “But I believe it hasn’t been done before because people with disabilities are still a minority population.”
The seat is designed to sit on top of a regular airplane seat. The bottom is made of memory foam to conform to the user’s body. It also offers support to hold the person using the seat upright.
“I wanted to cater to as many people with disabilities as possible,” she said.
Soufiane Boukhabrine, one of the students who helped with the project, said, “It was inspiring to be able to help a community that has been disregarded by everybody else. We know that the product that we’re designing is going to have a huge impact.”
He told CBC that this project has been eye-opening for them regarding the issues encountered by people with disabilities. Some of them have decided to change their career paths due to it.
Gualtieri says her idea is already gaining traction within her community.