New Tools To Help The Air Industry Better Serve Passengers With Disabilities

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OTTAWA - June 1, 2001 - The Canadian Transportation Agency announced today the availability of two new items to help the air industry better serve passengers with disabilities following the most comprehensive national survey ever conducted on accessibility in the Canadian air transportation network.

The release of a report on the results of this survey, conducted last summer in six major airports across the country, will help the industry make its operations more accessible by focusing on improvements to services and facilities that better respond to client needs. It will also be of assistance to the Canadian Transportation Agency in setting goals and priorities to enhance air transportation accessibility within Canada.

"Although the industry has made great strides over the last decade in providing accessible air transportation to an increasing number of Canadians, additional efforts, nonetheless, are required to remove the remaining obstacles", noted the Agency's Chairman, Marian Robson.

Communication of information at airports and provision of accessible seating on aircraft are two of the main areas that could be improved according to the respondents who participated in the survey.

In response to some of the concerns identified in the Report, the Canadian Transportation Agency will make available a reservation checklist that will act as a guide for transportation service providers to reserve the needed services of persons with disabilities travelling by air.

"The check list responds to an industry need and will help to ensure that the right services are there when they are required to make travel more comfortable and enjoyable for passengers with disabilities", said Marian Robson.

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent quasi-judicial administrative tribunal. Its mission is to administer transportation legislation and government policies to help achieve an efficient and accessible transportation system by education, consultation and essential regulation. The Agency's procedures are governed by the rules of natural justice which ensure that all parties receive fair and equitable treatment.

The survey report and the checklist are available on the Agency's Website at


For further information, please contact:

Lysanne Labossière
Communications Advisor
(819) 953-8926


Air Travel Accessibility Survey Report


Of the 1,716 individuals that responded by mail or phone to the survey, 1,120 indicated that they had a disability (65% of the total) and, of those, 448 (40%) indicated that they had multiple disabilities. 44% of the respondents with disabilities needed assistance to proceed to the boarding area, 33% to board the plane, and 32% to stow and retrieve publication/baggage.

Most (92%) of the respondents with disabilities were satisfied with the degree to which their needs were met and with the level of staff sensitivity to their needs. The most common obstacle in terms of accessible equipment was the non-provision of needed seating accommodation. 44% of respondents with disabilities requested extra services from air carriers to accommodate their needs. 24% of respondents requested a particular seat to accommodate their needs, and almost a quarter (24%) of seating requests were not met.

For reference, a Goss Gilroy Inc. study shows that 715,000 adults with a transportation disability travelled by air in 1995 in Canada, of which:

      - 352,000 had a mobility impairment;
      - 339,000 had an agility impairment;
      -   74,000 had a hearing impairment;
      - 227,000 had a vision impairment; and
      - 203,000 had other disabilities.

By extrapolation, these data can be applied to the findings of the survey where the respondents identified other significant obstacles. Among them:

  • 19% of respondents with disabilities said that the relay of information on special requirements between the booking agent and the check-in staff had been poor. Persons with an agility impairment were the most likely to have rated the relay of information as poor (26%), and persons with a sensory (hearing, visual) disability said there were problems in 20% of the cases.
  • 32% of respondents with disabilities had problems understanding announcements, including 53% of persons who use a hearing aid.
  • 88% of respondents found flight information monitors easy to read; they proved hard to read though for 37% of persons with a vision impairment.
  • Signs at airports were accessible for 94% of travellers, except for 19% of persons with a vision impairment and 11% with an agility disability.
  • The help desk (15%) and the publication/baggage retrieval area (14%) were the most difficult areas to access.




Based on this study's findings and on the convergence of data, the lessons learned are as follows:

  • Carriers need to address a number of operational issues, such as the relay of information and seating accommodation.
  • Carriers need to assess, review and improve disability-related training of their staff and agents.
  • Airport operators need to improve communications in airports, including public address announcements and the availability of TTYs or their equivalent.
  • The Agency, in collaboration with the industry and the community of persons with disabilities, needs to establish accessibility standards for airport operations and equipment, including ground transportation.
  • The Agency and the industry need to establish a partnership to better inform the community of persons with disabilities of the accessible equipment, accommodation and services made available to them.
  • In response of some of these findings, the Canadian Transportation Agency developed a checklist that will serve as a working tool to help transportation service providers to reserve the needed services of persons with disabilities travelling by air.
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