Accessibility Guidelines for Small Aircraft - Services for persons with disabilities on aircraft with 29 and fewer passenger seats

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1. Purpose of these Guidelines

These Guidelines, developed in cooperation with representatives of the industry, consumers and other government departments, are meant to assist carriers to better serve the needs of persons with disabilities travelling on aircraft with 29 and fewer passenger seats (small aircraft). The Guidelines let the industry and the public know what the Agency expects of operators of small aircraft when they are serving persons with disabilities.

Included in these Guidelines is information on what to discuss with persons with disabilities at the time of reservation, the carriage of various aids and service animals, what to do if a person's mobility aid is damaged or lost, and tips on how to improve communication with persons with disabilities. Also included is information on where to get training material free of charge, and a list of organizations of, and for, persons with disabilities to help implement the Guidelines.

Carriers using small aircraft will better serve persons with disabilities by providing them with, as a minimum, the services set out in these Guidelines and in the manner recommended.

Nothing in these Guidelines relieves any air carrier from complying with the provisions of any safety regulations under the Aeronautics Act, SOR/93- 449, s. 3.

2. Acceptance for carriage

2.1 Make every effort to accommodate persons with disabilities – transportation cannot be refused solely on the basis of a disability.

2.2 In instances when refusing transportation to a person with a disability is necessary, provide a clear explanation of the reason for the refusal, including refusal at the time of reservation.

2.3 Offer to provide the person with a disability a written explanation for a decision to refuse carriage, referred to in 2.2, within 10 calendar days of the refusal.

Section 2 - Implementation tips
  • Circumstances that may prevent a carrier from accepting a person with a disability for carriage include safety and the physical limitations of an aircraft.
  • Written explanations can be useful to avoid misunderstandings with the passage of time, or to avoid arbitrary decisions – such as the refusal to carry based on a disability.

3. Self-determination

3.1 Treat persons with disabilities with dignity at all times – which includes discussing relevant issues directly with them.

3.2 Accept the determination made by or on behalf of a person with a disability that the person is self-reliant and that the person does not require services of a personal nature during a flight.

Section 3 - Implementation tips

Services of a personal nature include assistance with eating, personal hygiene, using washroom facilities or taking medication.

4. Services at time of reservation

When a person self-identifies as a person with a disability at the time of reservation:

  1. describe equipment and services available to accommodate persons with disabilities;
  2. discuss both the level of accessibility and the limitations of the aircraft, the tarmac, the facilities and the availability of boarding equipment for the available services to accommodate that person's disability-related needs; and
  3. note, and offer to confirm in writing, services to be provided as soon as possible after the reservation has been made and before the flight.

5. Services requested in advance

Provide the services set out in the carrier's tariff and, in addition, where a request for a service is made in advance of travel, make every effort to provide:

  1. any of the services described in these Guidelines; and
  2. any additional service to accommodate a person's disability-related needs.

6. General services

Services often required to be provided to a person with a disability include:

  1. assistance at check-in;
  2. assistance to reach the boarding area;
  3. assistance to board and deplane;
  4. assistance with publication/baggage;
  5. assistance to transfer to or from a mobility aid;
  6. assistance to transfer to or from a passenger seat;
  7. inquiring, from time to time after check-in, about the needs of a person who is not independently mobile and attending to those needs when the services required are usually provided by the carrier, or where the services are set out in these Guidelines;
  8. limited assistance with beverages and snacks – such as opening packages and identifying items; and/or
  9. assistance to proceed to the general public area or to a representative of another carrier.

7. Assistance when boarding and deplaning

7.1 Board and deplane persons with disabilities using specialized equipment whenever possible.

7.2 As a last recourse, a person with a disability may be carried by hand to enplane and deplane if the following applies:

  1. restrictions inherent to the aircraft or the tarmac prevent the use of any other boarding/deplaning method;
  2. the person with a disability agrees to be hand-carried; and
  3. this can be done safely.
Section 7 - Implementation tips

Training of carrier personnel or agents is important to the safe provision of services to persons with disabilities especially when boarding/deplaning – see section 13 for additional guidance on training.

8. Accessible seating

Provide the person with a disability with the most accessible seat on the aircraft. Have an open dialogue with the person to determine which seat is the most accessible to meet specific disability-related needs.

Section 8 - Implementation tips

Transport Canada has produced a video titled "Smart Seating" to assist people in making informed decisions for seating arrangements on aircraft. It is available free of charge.

9. Carriage of aids

9.1 Carry as priority publication/baggage, in the cabin where possible, the following aids:

  1. a wheelchair (except when aircraft design does not permit carriage of the mobility aid);
  2. a walker, a cane, crutches or braces;
  3. a device to facilitate communication; and/or
  4. any prosthesis or small medical device.

9.2 Where possible, allow persons with disabilities to retain any items outlined in 9.1 b), c), or d) at their seat.

9.3 Where the aircraft design does not permit the carriage of the aid, advise the person with a disability of alternate transportation arrangements that the person may make to transport the aid, or to travel with the aid.

9.4 Perform the following, provided the aircraft can carry the aid:

  1. disassemble and package, where necessary, the aid for transportation and assemble the aid upon arrival; and
  2. return the aid promptly upon arrival.

9.5 Where facilities, the tarmac, and weather conditions permit, allow a manually-operated wheelchair to be used:

  1. to reach the boarding gate;
  2. to reach the stairs of the aircraft; or
  3. to reach the door of the aircraft (for aircraft accessible via a boarding system).

10. Carriage of service animals

10.1 Carry a service animal under the following conditions:

  1. the animal is required for disability-related needs;
  2. the animal is certified in writing, as being trained by a professional service animal institution; and
  3. the animal is properly harnessed.

10.2 Avoid separating persons with disabilities from their service animal.

10.3 Permit the service animal to accompany the person with a disability on-board and to remain on the floor at the passenger's seat or, where there is insufficient floor space at the passenger's seat, to remain on the floor in an area where the person can still exercise control over the animal.

Section 10 - Implementation tips

Service animals are not pets. They are used by persons with disabilities as an aid to carry on the daily activities of life.

11. Services related to damaged or lost aids

Where a carrier has transported a person's mobility aid, and the aid is damaged during flight or is unavailable at destination:

  1. provide the person with a suitable replacement aid;
  2. if the carrier cannot promptly provide a suitable replacement aid, assist the person in finding a suitable temporary replacement; and
  3. if a suitable replacement aid is not available in a reasonable amount of time, make every effort to find, with the person, an equitable resolution to the situation.

12. Communication strategy

12.1 Publish printed material in a format having the following characteristics:

  1. at least 14-point size;
  2. sans serif font (such as, Helvetica, Swiss, Arial, Univers); and
  3. well contrasted (such as, black on white).

12.2 Keep a dedicated pen and paper at points of contact between staff and the public to facilitate communication with travellers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a speech impediment.

13. Staff training

The disability-related services identified in these Guidelines are best provided by carrier personnel or agents who are properly trained to do so. Carriers are strongly encouraged to provide the following disability-related training to personnel who interact with persons with disabilities at the beginning of employment and supplement this training with periodic refresher training sessions:

  1. general sensitivity training to properly identify and respond to the needs of persons with disabilities; and
  2. training in providing physical assistance and in handling different types of mobility aids and specialized equipment.
Section 13 - Implementation tips

The Agency's Accessibility for All training videos provide a comprehensive, 45-minute training program for transportation staff on how to assist persons with disabilities.

14. Resolving problems

Problems can often be resolved between a person with a disability and a carrier. If a problem cannot be resolved, inform the person that:

  1. with respect to future travel, either party may contact staff of the Accessible Transportation Directorate of the Canadian Transportation Agency to address a disability-related concern prior to travel;
  2. either party may request the Canadian Transportation Agency to help settle the problem by mediation; or
  3. he or she may file a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Additional references

About the Agency

Our role in making transportation accessible

The Canadian Transportation Agency is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal and economic regulator of the Government of Canada.

Under Canadian legislation, the Agency has the responsibility for ensuring that persons with disabilities obtain access to this country’s federal transportation system by eliminating unnecessary or unjustified barriers. One way to achieve this goal is to develop and administer accessibility standards covering the transportation system under federal jurisdiction. Other ways include resolving disputes through facilitation, mediation or adjudication, and by consulting with stakeholders.

Under subsection 170(1) of the Canada Transportation Act, the Agency may make regulations to eliminate undue obstacles in the transportation network under federal jurisdiction. For example, the Agency may regulate:

  • the design, construction or modification of means of transportation and related facilities and premises and their equipment;
  • signage;
  • the training of personnel interacting with persons with disabilities;
  • the tariffs, rates, fares, charges and terms and conditions of carriage of persons with disabilities; and
  • communication of information for persons with disabilities
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