Accessibility complaints about transportation services

Persons with disabilities have a right to equal access to federal transportation services.

We can help with complaints that are related to a person's disability and:

  • airlines operating within, to, or from Canada;
  • rail, ferry and bus carriers that operate between provinces or territories or between Canada and the United States;
  • airports, rail stations and ferry terminals located in Canada; or
  • services that are integral to the transportation services provided by a carrier or terminal located in Canada.

To learn more, read Accessible Transportation Complaints: A Resource Tool for Persons with Disabilities.

Our definition of disability

A disability is a health-related problem that limits someone's ability to travel or that causes difficulties while travelling. Disabilities can include permanent and temporary conditions.

This could include:

  • Someone with a broken leg
  • Someone with severe allergies
  • A senior citizen with a health-related problem that makes it difficult for them to travel

Submit an accessible transportation complaint

After you submit a complaint

You will receive a confirmation email that includes a case number. You can check the status of your complaint at any time.

Our expert staff will review your complaint and ask you for more information, if necessary. You may need to complete a disability assessment form.

If you haven't contacted the transportation service provider about your complaint, that's the first thing we'll do. We will forward your complaint with a 30-day deadline for them to respond. Often the issue can be resolved directly with the transportation service provider.

If you're not satisfied with the response, we can try to resolve your complaint through facilitation or mediation – fast and easy informal dispute resolution processes. The vast majority of complaints are resolved this way.

Where less formal processes don't prove successful, the Agency also offers a court-like process called adjudication, where a panel will make a decision based on the evidence provided.

The adjudication process can also be used in more complex cases where a passenger feels that the transportation service provider's contract is unclear, unjust, unreasonable or discriminatory.

If the CTA convenes an in-person hearing for your disability-related adjudication case, you may be eligible for funding to help cover your travel and accommodation expenses to take part in the hearing.

Overview: the Canadian Transportation Agency's accessible transportation complaints process

Transcript: Accessible transportation complaints process

The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal with the mandate of administering the regulatory provisions affecting the modes of transportation under the authority of Parliament, as set out in the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) and other legislation.

Part V of the CTA provides the Agency with the human rights mandate to eliminate undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities in the federal transportation network and ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to transportation services.  This includes accessible transportation complaints.

The Agency's responsibility to resolve accessible transportation problems is limited to situations where the problem was related to a person's disability and occurred in the federal transportation network. 

When we refer to the federal transportation network, we are talking about the Agency's jurisdiction.  The Agency's jurisdiction applies to:

  • Airlines operating within Canada, or to or from Canada
  • Airports within Canada;
  • Passenger rail companies, ferry companies and bus companies that are providing services between provinces within Canada or between Canada and the United States. This would also include their stations or terminals in Canada.
  • Finally, the Agency's jurisdiction also applies, in some circumstances, to services that are related to the transportation services provided by a carrier or terminal in Canada.

Resolving your accessible transportation issue

Transcript: Resolving your accessible transportation issue

Service providers have the responsibility to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to federal transportation services by providing accommodation up to the point of undue hardship, and in a manner that respects the dignity of persons with disabilities.

Before you travel, make sure you provide your service provider with enough notice so that they can make the proper arrangements to accommodate your disability-related needs. For example, you may be travelling with a service animal, or may require a buffer zone due to a peanut allergy. If this is the case, make sure you provide advance notice to the service provider. You should give them a reasonable timeframe to arrange for your required accommodations, usually 48 hours.

Sometimes, even the best planned trip can go wrong.  If you encounter a problem or you have concerns related to your trip, let the transportation service provider know right away. Often a discussion is all that is required to fix the problem.

Make sure to keep all your receipts and documents. You should also keep a record of who you talked with and when.  Also, write a description of what happened as soon as you can, while the details are still fresh in your mind.

How to file a complaint

Before filing a complaint with the Agency, you should first try to solve the issue with the transportation service provider by making them aware of your complaint and allowing them 30 days to respond. Direct contact is often the most effective way to resolve a complaint.

If you have tried to resolve the issue with the service provider and aren't satisfied with the result, you can file an application with the Agency by using the complaint wizard, available on the Agency's website at www.otc-cta.gc.ca under the Complaints and Disputes tab or by submitting an email to info@otc-cta.gc.ca.

You don't need a lawyer to file your complaint, although you can if you wish to do so.   You can also choose to be represented by another person, such as a family member or friend but first, you must provide the Agency with written authorization for that person to act on your behalf.

Once the Agency has received your application, an employee will contact you to discuss options to address your complaint.

Options to resolve your accessible transportation complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency

Transcript: Options to resolve your accessible transportation complaint

The Agency offers three options to resolve your complaint, ranging from the informal methods of facilitation and mediation, to the formal adjudication process.

Now I will provide a brief explanation of each of the three options for resolving your complaint.

Option 1: Facilitation

Facilitation involves an Agency employee offering their expertise by having discussions with you and the service provider, separately, to help define the issues involved, which may clear the way for a solution. This is the most informal, and fastest, of the three methods of resolving complaints.

Once both parties agree to facilitation, the Agency facilitator will begin discussions with each party, either by telephone or by email. The facilitator assigned to your file will provide you with information on the relevant legislation, regulations and applicable guidelines, and may also refer to previous Agency decisions which dealt with similar issues.

With your consent, your application will be shared with the service provider to ensure that it is fully aware of the issues you would like addressed.

Almost any reasonable request can be put forward to the service provider in facilitation, however, should the case move to the formal process, the Agency does not have the power to award compensation for pain, suffering, or loss of enjoyment.  Addressing a complaint via facilitation may allow for an outcome that would not be possible through formal adjudication.

The Agency strives to resolve matters through facilitation with 30 calendar days.

If your complaint is not successful in facilitation or only partially successful, you may choose to request mediation or formal adjudication.

Option 2: Mediation

Mediation is also an informal process where an Agency mediator is assigned to assist both you and the service provider in addressing all issues through negotiation. Similar to a facilitator, a mediator must ensure that impartiality is maintained throughout the discussions, and must not provide strategic coaching to individual parties.

A mediator will assist parties with prioritizing and addressing issues raised in an application and in reaching a settlement. However, mediators have no decision making powers. 

Mediation is different from facilitation in that it involves direct interaction between the parties, either through a face-to-face meeting or by teleconference. This process gives you and the service provider an opportunity to express your views on the issue at hand, examine your concerns, explore some options, and develop your own solutions in a timely and cost-effective manner.  

Mediation is an informal alternative to the Agency's formal decision making process. However, it’s still a structured process with requirements that both parties must follow. For instance, it must be completed within a 30-day statutory deadline after the dispute is referred for mediation, unless the parties to the dispute agree otherwise.

To have your dispute settled through mediation, you must submit a complaint to the Agency using our complaint wizard,available on the Agency's website at www.otc-cta.gc.ca under the Complaints and disputes tab or by submitting an email to info@otc-cta.gc.ca. Cases referred to mediation are transferred outside of the Accessible Transportation Directorate and are handled by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Directorate. 

Once your application is received, one, or in some cases two, Agency employees who are qualified mediators and experienced in the transportation industry and accessible transportation matters will be appointed to your case.  The Agency will then contact the service provider to determine whether it is willing to have the dispute resolved through mediation.

The mediation process is confidential and parties must agree in writing to maintain confidentiality, even if the mediation does not result in the resolution of all issues. For example, the mediator will not discuss any elements brought forth during the course of the mediation session with Agency personnel, except for purposes related to Agency mediator training.

If no settlement or only partial settlement is reached, any remaining issues may be addressed by the Agency through the formal adjudication process.

Option 3: Formal adjudication

The formal adjudication process is a lot more structured. In this process, a panel of Agency Members are appointed to consider your application. Both you and the service provider are given an opportunity to present your cases to the Panel.

The Agency's Dispute Adjudication Rules set out the process that is followed during adjudication. They also provide information on how to make a variety of procedural requests to the Agency on matters that commonly arise in dispute proceedings, including requests to keep information confidential.

The annotation provides explanations and clarifications of the Rules which will be useful to those unfamiliar with the Agency and its processes. It is organized by section number to make accessing the information easier, but it also contains hyperlinks that allow easy navigation to related sections and further explanatory text that you will find useful.

Once the Panel has received both the service provider's answer to your application and your reply, it will determine if any additional information is required prior to making a decision. 

The Agency Members use the following three steps to resolve complaints through the formal process.

Step 1 – establish that you are a person with a disability for the purposes of the Canada Transportation Act;

Step 2 – establish that you have experienced an obstacle. You have to prove that you were denied equal access to services available because you were not provided with accommodation needed to address your disability-related needs.

Step 3 – determine if the obstacle is "undue" (i.e. unjustified) and if corrective measures are needed to eliminate it.

If the Agency finds that an undue obstacle exists, it has the power to order the service provider to take corrective measures to address it. For example, the Agency may require the transportation service providers to: amend their tariffs, policies and procedures, develop or amend training programs, train personnel, purchase equipment, provide services, and communicate information. The Agency may also direct that any expenses resulting from the undue obstacle be reimbursed.

However, the Agency does not have the power to award compensation for pain, suffering or loss of enjoyment.

To make a decision, the Panel members will look at all the evidence, such as evidence from a qualified health professional or an opinion from an informed expert and consider the legislation, any applicable regulations and legal principles. For less complex cases, the Agency strives to issue its decision within 85 business days after the filing of a complete complaint. For more complex cases, additional time may be required and in such instances, the Agency's objective is to issue its decision within 65 business days after all of the requested information is filed and the exchange of pleadings has ended.

Once a decision is rendered, it's considered final and binding similar to that of a court. However, should you disagree with a decision, you can apply to the Federal Court of Appeal within 30 days of the date the decision was issued and appeal the decision on a question of law or jurisdiction or you can petition the Governor in Council to vary or rescind a decision made by the Agency.

Any documents filed with the Agency as part of its formal adjudication process will be made part of the public record, unless a claim for confidentiality has been made to and accepted by the Agency. Therefore, before submitting your documents to the Agency, you should remove any information that you do not want included on the public record. Decisions are posted on the Agency's website and include the names of the parties involved, as well as witnesses.

This is a very high level overview of the steps required. More information can be found on the Agency's web-site at www.otc-cta.gc.ca or you may contact the Agency with any questions you might have by e-mail at info@otc-cta.gc.ca or by TTY at: 800-669-5575.

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