Using modern and human-centric interior design principles, ST Engineering has created ACCESS – the world’s first expandable lavatory to promote inclusive air travel.
Developed in partnership with Acumen, a multi-award-winning product and transport design consultancy, ACCESS empowers airlines and operators to revolutionise the flying experience of Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRMs) without sacrificing valuable seating capacity.
While modern air travel has advanced significantly since its inception, existing aircraft lavatories still pose significant mobility issues and anxiety for PRMs due to limitation in space and lack of user-friendly designs, deterring them from using on-board lavatories with ease or flying altogether. This, coupled with an ageing world’s population, necessitates an efficient solution that delivers value for both passengers and airline operators.
ACCESS - world’s first expandable aircraft lavatory
To address this, ST Engineering embarked on a mission in 2019 to develop a lavatory design that would unlock new levels of space, privacy, and support for PRMs. This is in line with ST Engineering’s commitment to pioneering cabin interior products that enhance air travel experience.
This led to ACCESS, a new aircraft lavatory design that can be retrofitted or line-fitted in narrowbody aircraft such as Airbus A321 and Boeing 737. The design also fulfils the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposed rulemaking on accessible lavatories.
Game-changing expandable design
The game-changing feature of ACCESS lies in its patented expandable feature in the form of a sliding wall which offers a 40% larger internal footprint than a typical narrowbody aircraft lavatory when deployed. The additional space is big enough to accommodate a passenger in a wheelchair and an accompanying caregiver, allowing them to enter and use the facilities in great comfort and privacy.
The unit can be readily deployed manually within seconds by the crew and just as easily returned to its original state when not in use. It is also packed with thoughtful accessibility features including well-positioned grab bars, anti-slip flooring and low sink and toilet pan height, as well as other features such as anti-microbial work surfaces and touchless water faucet and flushing system.
Easy installation with no alteration required
A huge advantage in the design for airlines is that they can install ACCESS without having to alter their cabin layout or reduce precious galley space and existing seating capacity. This helps keep retrofitting costs to the minimum, and airlines do not need to change their seating plans or inflight operating procedures to accommodate the new feature.
Human-centric design process
ST Engineering had conducted in-depth research during the conceptualisation and design process to identify the main accessibility issues with current lavatory designs. Numerous product testing and validation sessions were conducted with aviation field experts, suppliers, and people with disability to gather feedback and improve the design.
Through such a vigorous human-centric design process, ACCESS was created, and the prototype built in early 2022. In June 2023, ST Engineering obtained the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for installation of ACCESS on Airbus A320 aircraft. At present, the design of ACCESS for Boeing 737 has been completed with certification being targeted for 2024.