Passenger Rail Car Accessibility and Terms and Conditions of Carriage by Rail of Persons with Disabilities

February 5, 1998


Rail carriers operating passenger services within Canada should provide better accessibility and service to travellers with disabilities. The Code of Practice applies to passenger rail services operated in Canada by the following companies: VIA Rail Canada Inc., Algoma Central Railway Inc., Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway Company, Hudson Bay Railway Company and Amtrak. It also applies to passenger rail services that Canadian National Railway Company operates on behalf of Ontario Northland Railway. The accessibility criteria for passenger rail cars, and the terms and conditions of carriage, are summarized below:

Rail Car Accessibility

All passenger rail cars should meet the Code's criteria for signage, lighting, stairs, handrails and grab bars, floors, emergency window exits, space for service animals at passenger seats, tactile seat markers, means to communicate announcements, washrooms and alarms (by April 1, 2001).

Each passenger train should have at least one wheelchair tie-down in a coach car. Those trains with only one tie-down should have storage space for one other wheelchair (by April 1, 2001).

Coach cars with a wheelchair tie-down should meet criteria for the location of the tie-down, doorways and wheelchair-accessible washrooms (by April 1, 2001). New coaches should have movable aisle armrests on at least 10 per cent of the aisle seats (those to be used after April 1, 2001).

Each passenger train with sleeping car facilities should have at least one accessible bedroom with an accessible washroom.

Each passenger train should have an on-board wheelchair provided by the carrier (by April 1, 1998).

Terms and Conditions of Carriage (by July 1, 1998)

Rail carriers should serve persons with disabilities when a request is made at least 48 hours before departure, and make a reasonable effort to accommodate requests made on shorter notice. They should help persons with disabilities:

  • register at the ticket counter,
  • move to the boarding area,
  • board and disembark,
  • store and retrieve publication/baggage,
  • move to and from a rail car washroom,
  • proceed to the general public area, and
  • transfer between a mobility aid to one provided by the carrier, and between a mobility aid and the passenger seat.

When dining cars are not accessible, carriers should serve food and beverages to persons with disabilities. Carriers should also serve special meals, provide limited assistance with meals, and store medication.

Carriers should inquire periodically about a person's needs.

Rail carriers are to permit persons with disabilities to use personal wheelchairs and scooters up to the train (and, in some circumstances, to their seat or a tie-down). They should also transport mobility aids and other devices free of charge.

Carriers should allow small aids to remain with a person with a disability. Where space permits, they should carry large aids such as wheelchairs and scooters in the same rail car in which the person is travelling. If they must carry the mobility aid in a different rail car on the same train, they should promptly return the aid when the person reaches his or her destination.

Certain terms and conditions of carriage do not require any advance notice.

  • Carriers should accept service animals free of charge and permit the animal to accompany its owner on board.
  • On request, at the time of reservation, carriers should describe the services they offer to persons with disabilities. They should also provide written, plain-language confirmation of the services to be provided.
  • If a person is not independently mobile, and has told the carrier station staff, carriers should inquire periodically about the person's needs.
  • On request, carriers should communicate any on-board announcements visually or verbally, read menus aloud, or provide large print or braille menus to persons with disabilities.

Accessible seats and rooms should be the last ones assigned to passengers without disabilities.

Where a mobility aid is damaged during carriage or unavailable at the end of a trip, carriers should provide a free, temporary replacement. Carriers should also repair mobility aids damaged in transit and replace, or reimburse the full replacement value of, lost or irreparable aids.

Carriers should respect the wishes of persons with disabilities who decide they do not require services other than those usually provided by carriers.

The Canadian Transportation Agency will monitor carriers' progress in implementing the Code. Throughout the process, the Agency will continue to deal with individual complaints and to determine whether the mobility of persons with disabilities has been unduly obstructed.

This is only a summary of the Code of Practice. Please refer to the Code for more details.

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