ontario news watch

Air Canada CEO apologizes for accessibility barriers, rolls out new measures

MONTREAL — Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau is apologizing for the airline’s accessibility shortfalls and rolling out new measures to improve the travel experience for hundreds of thousands of passengers living with a disability.

Rousseau says the carrier is speeding up a three-year accessibility plan after recent reports of passenger mistreatment, including an incident where a man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to drag himself off of an airplane due to a lack of assistance.

The measures range from establishing a customer accessibility director to consistently boarding passengers who request lift assistance first.

Air Canada also aims to implement annual, recurrent training in accessibility — such as how to use a lift — for its 10,000-odd airport employees and include mobility aids in an app that can track baggage.

David Lepofsky, visiting research professor of disability rights at Western University’s law faculty, says that as a blind person he dreads flying in Canada because of unreliable assistance, despite an overhaul of regulations starting in 2020.

Statistics Canada found that 63 per cent of the 2.2 million people with disabilities who used federally regulated transportation in 2019 and 2020 faced a barrier.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2023.

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The Canadian Press