Two-thirds of people with disabilities faced barriers on federally regulated planes and trains in 2019 and 2020, according to a report released by Canada's auditor general on Monday (March 27).
Auditor general Karen Hogan's report shows Via Rail and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority making improvements in accessibility, but critical gaps still remain in general consultation and enforcement.
“I agree that even more work must be done to make sure that persons with disabilities do not face barriers in Canada's transportation system,” stated Transport Minister Omar Alghabra in a statement on Monday.
"In particular, I acknowledge recommendations to increase consultation with persons with disabilities on how to best improve their travel experience.”
The Minister said the “lived experience” of persons with disabilities needs to be considered more, for example, when designing websites for planning and booking trips, selling tickets, and building new infrastructure.
The report found that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, VIA Rail Canada, and the Canadian Transportation Agency acted to improve accessibility.
In some cases, organizations identified, removed, and prevented some barriers and offer services like web-alternate formats, assistance with luggage, and training for providing physical assistance.
But all three organizations agree that some barriers remain and that more can be done to address them,” Alghabra said.
Hogan's report, in particular, says there are just four Canadian Transportation Agency employees responsible for monitoring and enforcing more than 450 accessibility rules for more than 130 transportation service providers.
The audit also found that Via Rail and CATSA dealt with complaints about accessibility on a one-off basis, instead of taking a broader look at the overall accessibility of their services.
The report found that nearly one third of executives and managers at CASTA were late in completing mandatory accessibility training – at Via Rail, 39 per cent were late while 17 per cent didn't do it at all.
"While these are independent, arm's-length organizations, Transport Canada helps each organization acquire the resources and authorities necessary to deliver on its mandate,” Alghabra said.
He said Transport Canada will continue to work with the various organizations to support an accessible and barrier-free Canada by 2040.
The CTA also says it will look at hiring more people, if the funds are available.
The accessibility audit was one of four reports released by the auditor's office on Monday.
“It's frustrating enough to land after a flight only to find that your luggage didn't make it,'' Hogan said Monday at a meeting of the House of Commons public accounts committee on Monday, as reported by the Canadian Press.
“Now consider the impact when that missing cargo is not your toothbrush or change of clothes, but your wheelchair, and without it, you are unable to move around independently."