In the federally-regulated transportation sector, it is the Canadian Transportation Agency's responsibility to ensure that all Canadians enjoy the same access to travel.
All disputes about accessibility must fall under the jurisdiction of the Agency, which includes any accessibility complaints dealing with federally-regulated air, rail, and extra-provincial ferry and bus transportation.
Essentially, the Agency has a responsibility – and the authority – to ensure that any undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities are removed from transportation services and facilities under its jurisdiction.
The Agency removes undue obstacles in two ways:
on a case-by-case basis, by resolving individual complaints; and
on a systemic basis, by developing regulations, codes of practice and standards to ensure accessibility.
Implementation guides help canadian air carriers better serve travellers with visual impairments
Agency Accessibility Advisory Committee:
For advice on accessibility issues, the Agency consults its Accessibility Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from the community of persons with disabilities, the transportation industry and other interested parties.
In September 2009, the Agency released two implementation guides to assist air carriers in offering a better service to travellers who have a visual impairment.
The guides were produced following consultations with Canadian air carriers, professional service dog training institutions, national organizations of the blind and the Agency's own Accessibility Advisory Committee.
The new implementation guides were specifically designed to help air carriers address two provisions in the Agency's Code of Practice: Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities. The provisions deal with tactile row markers and space for guide dogs in aircraft cabins.
The Agency is confident that this Air Code and new accompanying implementation guides will go a long way in helping carriers meet the needs of passengers with disabilities.
50% of accessible transportation disputes resolved through formal adjudication within 120 days
Anything that impedes the mobility of a person within the federal transportation network where reasonable accommodations can be made to remove that obstacle.
In accessibility cases, the Agency has broad powers to order that corrective measures be taken – such as purchasing or modifying equipment, changing or developing a policy or procedure, and enhancing a training program. Additionally, the Agency has the legislated authority to fine service providers for failing to take the prescribed corrective measures.
OC Transpo fined
OC Transpo is the urban mass transit system which serves Ottawa, but also provides interprovincial bus service to and from Gatineau, Quebec – thereby placing it under federal jurisdiction.
In response to a 2007 complaint filed by a bus rider, the Agency found that OC Transpo's failure to call out stops was an undue obstacle to persons with disabilities, in this case persons with visual impairments. The Agency ordered OC Transpo to comply with its own policy of calling out stops.
Late in 2008, the Agency's Enforcement Division warned OC Transpo that it was not in compliance with the 2007 Decision. A second Decision in March 2009 gave OC Transpo 20 days to ensure that all necessary stops were called out. OC Transpo did not comply with the order and was issued a first time penalty of $5,000 in July 2009.
In March 2010, after Agency enforcement officers found that compliance had still not been achieved, a second penalty of $12,500 was issued.
See How We Work at Ensuring Compliance for more information on the Agency's enforcement activities.
In 2009-10, the Agency was involved in 53 accessibility cases, including:
16 cases carried forward from previous years and 37 new applications received.
12 were resolved through facilitation;
6 were resolved through mediation;
3 were resolved through adjudication;
15 were withdrawn or closed due to lack of response from applicants; and
17 were still in progress at year end.
An allergy is not automatically considered to be a disability for the purposes of the Canada Transportation Act. However, the Agency has determined that a person with an allergy may be found to be a person with a disability if the allergy sufficiently limits the person's access to the federal transportation network.
When it receives an accessibility complaint, the Agency must determine on a case-by-case basis whether an individual is a person with a disability in the context of the federal transportation network. In doing so, the Agency applies the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, as well as its own framework for disability analysis. To establish their disability, complainants must prove that they have an impairment, as well as provide fact-based evidence of the presence of an activity limitation and a participation restriction in accessing the federal transportation network.
Performance Target to be achieved by 2011
79% of accessible transportation disputes resolved informally within 30 days
In January 2010, the Agency issued a decision on two cases involving allergies to peanuts and nuts when travelling by air, in which it found that the applicants in both cases were persons with disabilities for the purposes of the Act. The Agency also found that the applicants did not encounter obstacles to their mobility with regard to the specific incidents that resulted in their complaints, as Air Canada accommodated the travellers' needs, although on an ad hoc basis.
However, the Agency noted that the lack of a formal policy to accommodate the needs of persons with allergies to peanuts or nuts can constitute an obstacle to the mobility of those whose allergy to peanuts or nuts results in a disability and that, when advance notice is provided, establishing a buffer zone is the appropriate accommodation for these persons. Based on these findings, as requested by the Agency, Air Canada provided a submission on:
what constitutes adequate advance notification of a person's need for accommodation in the form of a buffer zone; and,
the size of buffer zone for each of its aircraft types.
The Agency is now reviewing these submissions.
Pets in aircraft cabins
Following Air Canada's reintroduction in June 2009 of a policy to accept pets – such as cats and dogs – for carriage in aircraft cabins, the Agency received several cat allergy complaints.
After examining evidence received from the complainants as well as Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet, the Agency found that three complainants were in effect persons with disabilities, to the extent that the air carriers' policies on the carriage of cats in aircraft cabins impact their ability to travel by air. This means that the Agency will now examine whether these carriers' policies of accepting cats in the aircraft cabin constitute an obstacle to the mobility of the complainants in this case – i.e., that they prevent or impede the complainants from travelling by air.
The Agency's jurisdiction is limited to investigating only those issues which have been raised by the complainants – i.e., their allergy to cats. However, for reasons of efficiency and in the public interest of gathering the most relevant information possible as it relates to the air carriers' pet policies, the Agency has requested comments from the parties on expanding the scope of the Agency's investigation to include a thorough review of the carriers' policies on the carriage of other pets in aircraft cabins.
The Agency has also indicated to the parties that it would be gathering further evidence from them and would invite participation by organizations and individuals who have demonstrated a particular interest in the issue.