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A meeting between federal government officials and the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) to discuss a shared commitment to do more for air travellers with disabilities was described as "productive and candid." But the feds say airlines need to do more.
"The commitment from the National Airlines Council of Canada to passenger accessibility, including their specific focus on disability awareness and inclusion training and improved mobility device transportation and care, is a positive step toward disability-inclusive air travel," read a joint statement from Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, and Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport.
"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."
In the last year, there have been several 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.
"Passengers have rights when they travel. They must be treated with respect and dignity throughout their journey, full stop," the federal government stated.
The government says it is committed to do more, including:
-- Enhancing regulations that improve services and uphold the rights of persons with disabilities from point of ticket sale to receiving their luggage.
-- Hosting a Summit on Disability Inclusive Air Travel of Canadian airlines, airport authorities, disability stakeholders and service providers.
-- Conducting a global jurisdictional scan of best practices.
-- Enhancing requirements around the collection and transparency of data regarding complaints related to airline transportation and services for persons with disabilities.
-- Continuing to harmonize regulations, standards and the service experience with the United States.
-- Championing international global standards as they relate to accessibility and air travel for persons with disabilities at the International Civil Aviation Organization and the G7.
The government is also calling upon NACC members "to make important changes in how they do business and how they serve air travellers with disabilities." This includes:
-- Developing standardized forms and related intake processes used to collect disability-related passenger information and needs across NACC member airlines.
-- Establishing and applying a 'tell us once' approach associated with passenger files to reduce the administrative and monetary burden for persons with disabilities, specifically as it relates to informing airlines about their accessibility needs or submitting forms and requirements related to their accessibility needs.
-- Improving inflight communications on common and emergency notifications for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, persons who are blind or visually impaired and persons who require plain language.
-- Including enhanced data and voluntary reporting on disaggregated accessibility-related complaints in future Accessibility Plans.
-- Reporting on progress on the five commitments made by the NACC in its April 2023 statement - specifically, key actions, indicators and results related to disability awareness and inclusion training and improved mobility device transportation and care; and
-- Committing to report back on progress made against the above activities by June 2024.
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