ontario news watch

‘Gaping holes’ in the rules demean—and injure—travellers with disabilities: Advocates

MONTREAL — Accessibility advocates are speaking out about unreliable assistance in air travel, pointing to regulatory gaps and scattershot enforcement that can leave travellers with disabilities injured, stranded or demeaned.

Community leaders describe damaged mobility aids, seemingly untrained staff and a check-in and boarding process akin to a slow-motion relay that shuttles passengers from one point to another, sometimes waiting hours unassisted.

The criticism comes after Air Canada pledged to roll out new measures that improve the experience for hundreds of thousands of travellers living with a disability. 

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez summoned Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau for a sit-down in Ottawa on Thursday following 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.

Heather Walkus, chairwoman of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said the problems go beyond a single airline, extending to what she calls gaping holes in the law related to consultation and assistance protocols — despite a regulatory overhaul 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. 10, 2023.

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The Canadian Press