The Government of Canada has committed to doing more for people with disabilities who travel by air.
In a joint statement on Friday (May 26), Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra voiced their support for the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), which is aiming to enhance passenger accessibility with a focus on disability awareness, inclusion training and improved mobility device transportation and care.
“We support their endeavour, but more must be done to ensure that persons with disabilities can access equitable and dignified services and no longer face barriers when travelling in Canada,” the statement reads.
“In the last year, Canadians have read stories of how some persons with disabilities have received unacceptable treatment when travelling by air. There have been instances of wheelchairs being damaged, passengers with disabilities being separated from their travel companions, and passengers being treated differently because of the lack of disability awareness and training.”
The discussion comes following a report stating that two-thirds of people with disabilities faced barriers on federally regulated planes and trains in Canada from 2019 and 2020.
The report, released by Canada's auditor general, found that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, VIA Rail Canada, and the Canadian Transportation Agency acted to improve accessibility.
But all three organizations agreed that barriers remain and that more can be done to address them.
In its statement Friday, Qualtrough and Alghabra said they were “disappointed at the unacceptable treatment” that some travellers with disabilities have received.
“Passengers have rights when they travel. They must be treated with respect and dignity throughout their journey, full stop,” the statement reads.
In response, Ottawa has announced a list of actions it plans to take, including enhancing regulations that improve services and uphold the rights of persons with disabilities from point of ticket sale to receiving their luggage.
It will also host a Summit on Disability Inclusive Air Travel of Canadian airlines, airport authorities, disability stakeholders and service providers, as well as conduct a global jurisdictional scan of best practices.
More attention will be given to the collection and transparency of data regarding complaints related to airline transportation and services for persons with disabilities.
As well, Ottawa is calling upon NACC members to make changes in how they do business and how they serve air travellers with disabilities.
This includes developing standardized forms and intake processes used to collect disability-related passenger information and needs across NACC member airlines, establishing a “tell us once” approach associated with passenger files to reduce the burden for persons with disabilities, among other actions.
Ottawa has asked the NACC to report back on its progress by June 2024.