A What We Heard Summary Report on Accessible Transportation

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Background
  4. Consultative Process
  5. Conclusion
  6. Next Steps
  7. Appendices

Executive Summary

The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) launched its Regulatory Modernization Initiative (RMI) to seek the advice of stakeholders, experts and Canadians in general on updating and improving the regulations it administers to ensure that they keep pace with changes in business models, user expectations and best practices in the regulatory field.

This report provides a summary of the submissions and advice received on the first phase of the RMI consultations - which was focused on accessible transportation regulations - through online and in-person consultations between June 2016 and March 2017.

Over 190 submissions were received. The comments, suggestions, ideas and proposals in the "What We Heard" section of this report are organized into three categories: general public, disability rights organizations, and industry.

Some of the views that emerged from the consultations indicate the following:

  • There is wide support for the development of a single, comprehensive set of accessible transportation regulations that apply across the national transportation system.
  • Some stakeholders support regulations that would apply to all operators, whereas other stakeholders believe that regulations should only apply to medium and large-sized operators.
  • There is unanimous recognition of the importance of staff training and education on how to better serve and interact with persons with disabilities. 
  • Some stakeholders support regulations that would apply to both Canadian air carriers operating services outside of Canada and to foreign air carriers operating services to/from Canada.
  • Many Canadians support regulations which would accommodate persons disabled by severe allergies (e.g. peanut, nut and sesame allergies).
  • Industry objects to a pre-approval process for equipment acquisitions, construction of new facilities, and major retrofits/renovations.
  • Industry voiced concerns that overly prescriptive regulations could stifle innovation.
  • Canadians and disability rights organizations generally believe that multi-year accessibility plans, accessibility audits and industry self-reporting will help ensure regulations are being followed.

Introduction

Since 1988, the Agency has had, as one of its three core mandates, the protection of the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to accessible transportation services.

Scott Streiner, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, launched the RMI in May 2016 as a four-part consultative process aimed at updating and renewing all of the regulations administered by the Agency in order to keep pace with changes in business models, user expectations and best practices in the regulatory field.

Consultations on accessible transportation regulations were the RMI's first phase.  The accessibility needs of Canadians are varied and are increasing as the population ages and the percentage of Canadians with disabilities continues to grow. These realities underscore the importance of hearing from disability rights organizations, industry, and other interested Canadians on how regulatory provisions can help make Canada's national transportation system as accessible as possible.

Background

The Canada Transportation Act (CTA) gives the Agency the responsibility of ensuring that persons with disabilities have equitable access to transportation services and that unnecessary or unjustified barriers to accessibility are removed.

One way the Agency achieves this goal is by developing and administering accessibility standards that apply to the transportation network under federal jurisdiction.

The Agency currently administers two sets of regulations on accessibility:

The Agency also administers six codes of practice related to accessibility:

To facilitate the consultation process, the Agency released an Accessible Transportation Discussion Paper for Regulatory Modernization.

Consultation Process

The consultation process for the first phase of the RMI focused on accessible transportation and started in June 2016 with a meeting of the Agency's Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). This meeting brought together a diverse group of industry and disability rights organization stakeholders to discuss the preliminary framework for RMI and accessible transportation.

Between June 2016 and March 2017, Agency staff held numerous meetings with stakeholders and accepted submissions from industry, disability rights organizations, and the general public. The vast majority of submissions were made online through the Agency's consultation page where participants were provided with several options to make a submission including via e-mail, by phone, or in writing as well as the option to upload a video submission using sign language.

The Agency received over 190 submissions. The comments, suggestions, ideas and proposals from those submissions are summarized in the "What We Heard" section of this report, which is organized into three categories: general public, disability rights organizations, and industry.  In some cases, these categories have been merged to avoid duplication and to reflect similar views. In other cases, if there were no submissions, the category was removed from the summary.

What We Heard – Communication

The Agency's Code of Practice: Removing Barriers for Travellers with Disabilities (Communication Code) sets out accessibility standards developed to improve the communication of transportation-related information for persons with disabilities in respect of the various modes of travel. The standards apply to both terminal operators and carriers. The Communication Code was first published in 2004 and updated following consultations with the Agency's AAC.

The following summarizes the comments related to accessible communication received through submissions:

General public
  • Travellers need more consistency in the communication systems they use when travelling; and
  • Technological barriers prevent independent travel for persons with disabilities. For example, wayfinding technologies are inadequate; signage is insufficient; online booking systems are incompatible with screen readers; and websites and kiosks lack accessibility.
Disability rights organizations
  • Information needs to be accessible, including terms and conditions of carriage on airlines' websites and touch screen options on kiosks;
  • Websites need to comply with the standards set out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to provide online support fully and equally to persons with disabilities;
  • Communication of information within terminals, such as gate changes and flight updates made over public announcement systems, should be provided in audio and visual formats; and
  • Wayfinding technology and alternative methods of communication must be made available to enable passengers to independently navigate through a terminal.
Industry
  • Industry generally supports mandating the standards in the Agency's Communication Code, although one submission indicated that given that technology is constantly evolving, best practices would be more useful than regulations;
  • The incorporation of evolving technologies in regulatory requirements could be problematic; and
  • There should be further consultation with experts on how to address online/web accessibility and incorporating evolving technologies in regulations.

What We Heard - Training

The Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations (PTR),  which came into effect 1995, are one of two existing regulations administered by the Agency related to accessible transportation. Since the implementation of these regulations, the Agency held extensive consultations with its AAC and, in 2013, developed proposed changes to the PTR, however, these were not tabled due to the subsequent change in government.

Submissions were invited on both the existing PTR and the proposed changes developed in 2013.

The following summarizes the comments related to training received through submissions:

General public
  • There should be more training on using onboard medical equipment and overall training should be required at least every 2 years; and
  • Training and education on how to better serve and interact with persons of disabilities needs to be augmented.
Disability rights organizations
  • Make disability awareness and accessible customer service training mandatory; and
  • Refresher training should be given on a yearly basis, as a joint venture between the community of persons with disabilities and industry stakeholders.
Industry
  • Training personnel every 3 years is sufficient and reasonable; and
  • The Agency should consider developing training resources that would ensure standardized training for all service providers in all modes of transportation.

What We Heard – International Air Services

Part VII of the Air Transportation Regulations (ATR) in their current form only applies to Canadian carriers operating domestic flights using aircraft with 30 or more seats.
Air transportation is global and people with disabilities want the option to travel internationally knowing that their accessibility-related needs will be met.

Requirements regarding air travel could be extended to international services operated by Canadian carriers and to services operated by foreign carriers to/from Canada. In addition, the scope of any new regulations relating to communication, training, technical standards and/or systematic issues could also apply equally to international air services.

The following summarizes the comments related to international air services received through submissions:

General public/disability rights organizations
  • Foreign carriers doing business in Canada to comply with Agency regulations for accessibility similar to Canadian carriers operating domestic flights.
Industry
  • Any regulations applying to Canadian carriers operating flights abroad need to be consistent and equivalent to those in foreign jurisdictions and be mutually-recognized by those jurisdictions;
  • It is important to understand that there are fundamental differences between the Canadian, the European Union (EU), and the United States (U.S.) regimes;
  • Regulations should be streamlined and universally applied;
  • Applying air regulations to Canadian carriers operating flights to other countries is not feasible because carriers would be forced to comply with a variety of different regulations, some of which may overlap or conflict with Canadian regulations;
  • The Agency should develop new regulations similar to and aligned with those issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation since Canadian carriers are already subject to them; and
  • U.S. carriers are concerned about having to comply with new regulations given that there is a negotiated rulemaking process underway in the U.S. They also want to ensure that there are no conflicts between any potential new requirements and U.S. requirements.

What We Heard – Technical Standards

Air

Technical standards for air carriers are set out in the Agency's Code of Practice: Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities for Fixed-Wing Aircraft with 30 or More Passenger Seats(Air Code).

These technical standards may be included in new regulations proposed by the Agency. For example, air carriers could be expected to have seats with liftable armrests so that passengers can be transferred to their seat; tactile row markers to assist passengers who are blind or partially sighted to find their seat; and washrooms  equipped with accessible features, such as handles that can be operated with minimal force.

The following summarizes the comments on technical standards related to air travel received through submissions:

General public
  • Aircraft cabins should accommodate wheelchairs (powered and non-powered) depending on established size parameters; and
  • Air carriers should create a row of seats that can recline 45-degreees to accommodate passengers who have difficulty sitting upright.
Disability rights organizations
  • Inaccessible technology (such as touchscreens for lighting or call buttons) poses issues for passengers with disabilities;
  • Aircraft cabins should be designed with sufficient space to accommodate service animals and guidelines related to the size of the service animal should be eliminated since seats are the same size on most aircraft;
  • The need for an extra seat should be discussed by the passenger and the service provider;
  • The provisions in the Air Code should be incorporated into the new regulations and should also apply to all aircraft regardless of size;
  • Service providers that cannot accommodate mobility aids (e.g. wheelchairs) may be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
  • Carriers need to incorporate space requirements to accommodate mobility aids in the design of new aircraft and require manufacturers to deliver aircraft according to specifications; and
  • The Government of Canada and the Agency should provide financial support to carriers.
Industry
  • Many air carriers oppose overly prescriptive regulations, want flexibility in how they achieve compliance and prefer objective-based requirements;
  • There are strong objections to a requirement for pre-approval for the acquisition of new equipment and major retrofits. Such a requirement would cause delays and be problematic for carriers using leased aircraft. The Agency should have a guidance or consultative role instead of a regulatory one;
  • Over-regulation would stifle innovation; and
  • Regulations should not apply to foreign carriers; instead, the government should accept alternatives to what the regulations prescribe. For example, an airline should be considered as meeting the regulation when it is in complianceTitle 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 382, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel.

Rail

The Agency’s Code of Practice: Passenger Rail Car Accessibility and Terms and Conditions of Carriage by Rail of Persons with Disabilities (Rail Code) includes  technical specifications for various rail car types (coach, sleeper, lounge, and food/bar service cars) regarding features such as  signage, wheelchair tie-downs, and tactile row markers.

The new regulation could incorporate many of these technical standards and potentially include additional requirements such as more than one tie-down space per train, so that passengers using wheelchairs can travel together; and integrated boarding lifts to address situations where boarding platforms are not level and where there is insufficient assistance from train personnel at unstaffed stations.

The Rail Code also sets out expectations concerning services that rail carriers should provide to persons with disabilities.

The following summarizes the comments related to rail travel received through submissions:

General public
  • There should be Braille row-markers to enable passengers to locate their seats independently
Industry (comments from VIA Rail Canada Inc.)
  • Passenger rail cars come in a variety of configurations and each train is equipped with at least one car that has a mobility aid tie-down area;
  • Seats on any given rail car are generally equally accessible;
  • There is support for converting the rail-specific technical provisions of the Rail Code and inter-modal provisions of the Communication and Terminal Codes to regulations, although there are some standards in the Rail and Terminal Codes that are not appropriately tailored to the rail context;
  • It is not economically or operationally feasible to replace all trains and stations at the same time to comply with new regulations/standards nor is it fiscally reasonable to expend financial resources on legacy trains; and
  • The technical standards in the Rail Code have been implemented and new requirements should not apply to existing equipment.

Marine

The Agency's Code of Practice: Ferry Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Ferry Code), sets out standards that ferry operators are expected to meet and encouraged to exceed for extra-provincial ferry travel. The Ferry Code covers vessel accessibility, maintenance, communication, services and training.

Prescriptive provisions contained in the Ferry Code could be incorporated in new regulations while the more objective-based provisions could remain in the Code and complement any new regulations.

The following summarizes the comments related to extra-provincial ferry travel received through submissions:

Industry
  • There is a 3-year time span from first consideration to the introduction of a new ferry which needs to be factored into any new equipment regulations;
  • The average age of the national fleet is between 30 – 40 years old. Replacement is being done gradually and accessibility is a key aspect that is considered when vessels are being built;
  • Financial assistance should be provided to operators when changes are introduced to address challenges relating to the financial capacity to undertake renovations or replace aging vessels;
  • There is little support for incorporating Code requirements into regulations; and
  • There are strong objections to a requirement for pre-approvals by the Agency of purchases of retrofits.

Bus

The Agency has exercised its jurisdiction over extra-provincial bus operators as part of its tribunal function to address complaints.

Consistent with the other modes of transportation, regulations in respect of prescriptive provisions could be developed and objectives-based, non-prescriptive provisions could be included in a code of practice similar to the Intercity Bus Code of Practice developed by Transport Canada.

The following summarizes the comments on standards related to extra-provincial bus operations received through submissions:

General public
  • Regulations need to require accommodations for persons with invisible disabilities as well as those who are unable to communicate but wish to travel by bus independently; and
  • Online booking systems are not accessible using screen reader technology.
Disability rights organizations
  • Extra-provincial bus services should form part of the new regulations.
Industry
  • Voluntary codes are beneficial;
  • A careful examination of the actual need, versus a perceived need or ideologically-based desire to create regulations, is required in the face of minimal evidence to justify a regulatory regime;
  • Evidence-based decision making is critical to policy development;
  • Regulations could have negative impacts on small-to-medium sized bus operators;
  • The bus industry loses money and it would be difficult to make equipment changes without funding;
  • New buses are unaffordable. In the U.S. buses are heavily subsidized by the U.S. Government;
  • Many travellers have low incomes; therefore, ticket prices are usually low. Retrofitting costs would be passed on;
  • Ride-sharing programs have had a negative impact on the bus industry. The bus industry will have to adapt by using smaller buses (e.g. 15 seats vs. 50 seats); and
  • Accessible buses are spread throughout the system; 48 hours advance booking allows buses to be repositioned as needed and this works well.

Terminals

The Agency's Code of Practice: Passenger Terminal Accessibility (Terminal Code) sets out accessibility standards for air terminals within the National Airport System and rail and ferry terminals at which 10,000 or more passengers embarked and disembarked in each of the two preceding calendar years (except rail terminals limited to commuter or tourist services, which are excluded).

The prescriptive standards in the Terminal Code could be incorporated within the proposed regulations. For example, the regulations could include the requirement to provide accessible boarding bridges, platforms, or gangways and accessible washrooms that meet applicable provisions in the Canadian Standards Association's B651- Accessible Design for the Built Environment standard and relieving areas for service animals.

In terms of compliance with new technical standards for each of the modes of transportation, carriers and terminal operators could be required to obtain the Agency's approval for planned acquisitions of new equipment and major retrofits as well as for the construction of terminals and major renovations which would reasonably be expected to impact access by persons with disabilities.

The following summarizes the comments on accessibility standards for terminals received through submissions:

General public
  • Kiosks, such as those used for check-in, should be accessible.
Disability rights organizations
  • Terminal operators should be required to obtain the Agency's approval for planned acquisitions of new equipment and major retrofits as well as for the construction of terminals and major renovations; and
  • Terminal operators should consult representatives from the community of persons with disabilities to ensure accessibility requirements are met prior to acquisitions of new equipment and major retrofits as well as for the construction of terminals and major renovations.
Industry
  • Industry does not support pre-approval by the Agency for the construction of terminals and major renovations and notes that airports are subject to the National Building Code of Canada (NBC) as well as any local requirements;
  • Terminal operators are satisfied with the current standards included in the Terminal Code and are concerned about the capacity of smaller airports to comply with mandatory requirements mainly due to limited resources, terminal space, and funds;
  • Regulations should not impose the use of a boarding bridge for all flights as this would seriously impact airline and passenger on-time departures and schedules, as some airports have only a small number of bridges. However, any new bridges that are procured should meet accessibility requirements;
  • Service animal relief areas on the secure side of airports will be next to impossible to achieve without considerable impact on existing security regulations;
  • Terminals, such as airports, are also subject to the NBC and compliance with this standard provides adequate accessibility;
  • It is not feasible to staff all rail stations but if staffing is required by regulation, the delivery of some train services would be restricted;
  • Current exemptions in the Rail Code concerning check-in assistance, other in-station services and curbside assistance at unstaffed stations should remain; and
  • Certain provisions of the Terminal Code do not apply or are not appropriately tailored to the passenger rail industry (e.g. mandated security screening areas, for which many rail terminals would not have adequate space).

What We Heard – Systemic Issues

One person, one fare

In 2008, the Agency issued a decision arising from complaints against Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet regarding their policies to charge on a per seat basis. The Agency found that the policies created undue obstacles for persons with disabilities who require additional seating to accommodate their disabilities to travel on domestic flights operated by the carriers. Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 required the carriers to amend their policies and procedures to provide additional seating required to accommodate a person's disability free-of-charge ('one-person-one-fare').

The new regulations could require air carriers operating both domestically and internationally to/from Canada and carriers in other modes of transportation to provide additional seats required to accommodate a person's disability free-of-charge.

The following summarizes the comments related to one-person-one-fare received through submissions:

General public
  • One-person-one-fare should be expanded to include international flights operated by Canadian carriers to provide a consistent level of service throughout the journey; and
  • Carriers should waive or reduce fares for a person with a disability's attendant.
Disability rights organizations
  • One-person-one-fare policy should apply to foreign carriers; and
  • The Agency may not have jurisdiction to require a one-person-one-fare policy in respect of international flights based on the rights conferred in Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008.
Industry
  • One-person-one-fare should not be mandated, especially in the context of international flights due to the complexities of dealing with connecting flights, interlining passengers, and code-sharing agreements between various carriers;
  • One-person-one-fare policies negatively impact revenues and create economic and competitive disadvantages;
  • Refunding fares after the fact if seats are unsold is impracticable given the complexities of connecting flights, interlining passengers, code-share agreements and determining which passenger(s) are eligible for refunds if there is an insufficient number of unsold seats;
  • Refunds, discounts, or waived fees for attendants force air carriers to charge more to other passengers and do not take into consideration scenarios where there are no empty seats on a flight or when a smaller aircraft is being used that might only have single row passenger seating which do not allow a passenger to sit beside their attendant;
  • A one-person-one-fare policy is an industry anomaly, unique relative to other regulatory regimes, and directly and negatively impacts an air carrier's revenue. This creates an uneven playing field and economic and competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis global competitors; and
  • There are safety concerns (e.g. when more than one seat is occupied by a single passenger as seats are not designed to be straddled by a single passenger).

Allergies

The Agency has issued several decisions relating to the accommodation of persons disabled by allergies. These decisions have examined allergies to peanuts and nuts, other food allergies, cats, perfume, and environmental sensitivities.

The Agency also conducts inquiries when directed by the Minister of Transport to do so. In June 2016, the Agency released an inquiry report into allergies to peanuts, nuts and sesame seeds in commercial air travel in response to a Ministerial direction.

Regardless of the mode of transportation, any accommodation measures that may be included in the regulations would take into account:

  • Type of exposure (e.g. ingestional, inhalational)
  • Feasibility of accommodation measures to address various allergens

The regulations may also recognize that there is an onus on passengers who are disabled by allergies to take all the usual precautions they do in their daily lives such as carrying their medication on their person, wiping down seats and eating areas, etc.

The following summarizes the comments related to allergies received through submissions:

General public
  • Carriers should equip medical kits with EpiPen auto injectors;
  • Ban all carriers from distributing nuts or peanuts; and
  • Carriers should provide accommodation for persons disabled by allergies and/or institute buffer zones.
Disability rights organizations
  • Announcements should be made at boarding gates (or prior) asking passengers to refrain from bringing peanuts, nuts, sesame seeds or foods containing these products onboard. This would also allow passengers to purchase an appropriate snack prior to boarding.
Industry
  • Education, not regulation is important. It is unfair to expect an air carrier to be responsible for managing a person's personal allergy risk by prescriptive rules such as segregation; and
  • A carrier supply of epinephrine auto-injectors would be prohibitively expensive as their shelf-life is shorter and each dose is significantly more expensive than vials of epinephrine. A carrier's entire medical kit would have to be redesigned to have space for the auto-injectors as each item is held in place with foam to withstand turbulence, resulting in further costs.

Service Animals

The existing provisions in the ATR only require air carriers to accept service animals that have been certified, in writing, as having been trained by a professional service animal institution and that are properly harnessed. The codes of practice for transportation by rail and ferry reflect the expectation that carriers will accept service animals for carriage under these same circumstances.  

Neither the ATR nor the codes of practice prevent carriers from accepting service animals that do not meet these criteria.

The following summarizes the comments related to service animals received through submissions:

General public/disability rights organizations
  • The regulations should be more inclusive than the current ATR requirements;
  • Carriers should develop profiles/records for passengers in order to avoid delays and redundancy by requiring passengers to repeat the same information in respect of each trip (e.g. measurements of their service animals);
  • Terminals should create relieving areas on the secure side of airports to avoid situations where passengers are forced to undergo repetitious security screening when exiting a secure area to relieve a service animal;
  • Baggage fees for food and/or equipment essential for a service animal should be waived (e.g. similar to carrier policies on wheelchair batteries and supporting equipment);
  • Create consistency with U.S. service animal regulations and jurisdictional collaboration;
  • Size guidelines for space for service animals should be eliminated given that every seat on modern aircraft is virtually identical; and
  • Create more space to accommodate service/comfort animals so that they are closer to their owners (e.g. passengers who require the emotional support of an animal should be allowed to rest the animal on their lap or at their feet during long flights).
Industry
  • Inclusion of therapy or comfort animals in the "service animal category" may result in the inclusion of animals that are not trained to assist persons with disabilities;
  • Strict medical and training requirements should be upheld for service animals since a lack of training can pose safety issues to other passengers and carrier personnel;
  • Clearly define and differentiate between a service animal and a comfort animal, and establish a genuine need for assistance provided by a service animal;
  • There are safety risks due to online certification providers issuing documentation for a fee without confirmation that an animal has been trained to provide disability-related assistance; and
  • Need collaboration with the U.S. Department of Transportation to simplify requirements.

Positioning and Seating Devices

In recent years, the Agency has received complaints from persons with disabilities regarding difficulties using special seating or positioning devices onboard aircraft.

The new regulations could require all carriers, regardless of the mode of transportation, to allow passengers who require these devices to accommodate their disability to be able to use them unless this would be prohibited by safety rules or would otherwise significantly compromise the person's safety or that of other passengers.

The following summarizes the comments related to seating and positioning devices received through submissions:

Disability rights organizations
  • The Agency should require carriers to accept special seating/positioning devices.
Industry
  • Compatibility with different types of aircraft seats and consistency of seating/positioning devices raises concerns;
  • The logistics of establishing a standard and an acceptable design for such devices is challenging, including as a result of a variety of aircraft interiors; and
  • New regulations should not conflict with existing safety legislation.

Curbside Assistance

The new regulations could contain a requirement that terminal operators in all modes of federal transportation provide assistance to persons with disabilities from curb-to-check-in or boarding platform when departing from a terminal and from the general public area to the curb upon arrival at a terminal.

Such a requirement would be consistent with requirements in other jurisdictions, including with the European Union's Regulation 1107/2006, which requires managing bodies of airports to provide curbside assistance to persons with disabilities.

The following summarizes the comments related to curbside assistance received through submissions:

General public
  • Assistance in terminals should be required from curb-side to curb-side for both arrivals and departures; and
  • Carriers and terminals need to provide travellers with information prior to travel such as location of assistance telephones and information on "meet and assist."
Disability rights organizations
  • Curbside assistance for all federal modes of transportation should be mandated through regulation given that, in many situations, carriers receive passenger information in advance and would be able to arrange for personnel to assist passengers
Industry
  • In general, industry is concerned with the possible effects curbside assistance may have at airports and other terminals;
  • Curbside assistance should be the strict responsibility of carriers;
  • Smaller airports lack funds to support curbside programs;
  • Toronto's Pearson International Airport should be considered as a model for other Canadian airports to address the debate on where an airline assumes responsibility for assisting a person with a disability;
  • Rail carriers should be exempt from regulations related to curbside assistance at unstaffed stations as these services are currently provided with notice and upon request; and
  • Bus drivers are trained to provide assistance from the curb.

Accessible In-Flight Entertainment

Passengers with disabilities wish to enjoy in-flight entertainment (IFE) as much as other passengers; however, the reality is that passengers with hearing or visual impairments are often unable to do so as a result of inaccessible technology.

The new regulations could require that IFE be accessible (i.e., by providing closed captioning and described audio) possibly through the use of tablets that contain content in accessible formats.

The following summarizes the comments related to in-flight entertainment received through submissions:

General public
  • IFE should be accessible for persons with sensory disabilities;
  • Passengers with disabilities should be able to use Wi-Fi and other premium services free-of-charge to mitigate some barriers to accessing IFE since many passengers travel with compatible devices; and
  • Provide more accessible controls on existing systems as well as alternative means when communicating important information.
Disability rights organizations
  • All carriers should be required to provide accessible IFE as per the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's decision concerning a major Canadian air carrier to provide accessible IFE;
  • New aircraft are phasing out physical call buttons and personal lighting controls and shifting to digital functions using screens that may be inaccessible to some passengers; and
  • In general, there are concerns with respect to accessible IFE as well as the accessibility of announcements and safety videos on board flights.
Industry
  • Installing accessible IFE or providing alternative entertainment systems may necessitate mass retrofit of current aircraft and on-board technologies;
  • Retrofitting of existing aircraft is not supported. However there is some support for a requirement in respect of future purchases; and
  • Some industry members reject any regulation altogether, while others are open to providing accessible IFE and using portable electronic devices as a solution in the future.

What We Heard - Reporting, Monitoring and Compliance

Compliance with the new accessibility regulations could be supported through a requirement that service providers publish multi-year accessibility plans and report on accessibility-related complaints.

Accessibility plans provide an opportunity for service providers to demonstrate how they meet accessibility standards, their plans for removing existing obstacles, and strategies for preventing new ones.

Complaint statistics can provide insight into obstacles that may exist and thereby inform the Agency's compliance monitoring activities.

The following summarizes the comments related to reporting, monitoring and compliance received through submissions:

General public
  • Support mandating annual self-reporting by the industry and the publication of multi-year accessibility plans to enable compliance monitoring; and
  • Service providers should include the community of persons with disabilities when developing accessibility plans and addressing accessibility complaints.
Disability rights organizations
  • Disability rights organizations echoed the comments received from the general public;
  • Regulations should also include penalties (i.e. monetary fines) in cases of non-compliance;
  • Industry should be encouraged to include disability rights organizations and individuals from the community of persons with disabilities to assist in monitoring compliance; and
  • Industry should be closely monitored when it introduces new, renovated or modernized equipment to ensure accessibility regulations are met.
Industry
  • Some industry members are open to the idea of developing multi-year accessibility plans;
  • One carrier suggested that, before submitting multi-year accessibility plans, there should be a preliminary examination of complaints, challenges to be addressed, and trends for possible challenges going forward;
  • Concerns were expressed by a carrier that reporting requirements may require a policy change to allow carriers to gather medical information in advance of travel in order to be able to report on the types of disabilities involved in complaints; and
  • There were some concerns expressed about sensitive competitive information being made public.

Conclusion

The Agency appreciates the participation of the general public, disability rights organizations, and industry in consultations for the modernization of its accessibility regulations. Through the consultations, as well as in collaboration with the Agency's AAC, Agency staff have gathered ideas for strengthening the accessible transportation regulations and codes of practice.
The valuable work done through these consultations on accessible transportation will also support broader initiatives of the Government of Canada, such as the development of new federal accessibility legislation, Transportation 2030 – the Government's strategy for the future of transportation in Canada, and ensuring that Canada lives up to its international responsibilities to protect the human right of persons with disabilities to equal access by removing barriers to travel across Canada's national transportation system.

Next Steps

The Agency launched the second phase of its RMI on air transportation in December 2016. The Agency also released a Discussion Paper on Regulatory Modernization for Air Transportation to help interested parties understand the scope, legislative and regulatory context for this consultation.

Two additional phases will be launched this year focused on rail transportation and consumer protection for air travellers.

The Agency plans to complete consultations and draft modernized regulations by the end of 2017, and implement the regulations in 2018.

Appendices

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