And Lots More Media Coverage of Our Issues Over the Past Two Weeks
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance September 13, 2019
1. Please Tell the Ford Government If you Support the AODA Alliance’s Brief on the Proposal to Hold a 5-Year Pilot Project Allowing E-scooters in Ontario
Please email the Doug Ford Government as soon as you can to support the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 brief on the Government’s proposal to permit the use of electric scooters on Ontario roads and bike paths for the next 5 years as a pilot project. Even though the Government’s incredibly-rushed 2.5 week public consultation on this proposal ended yesterday, nothing stops you from now writing the Government. Send your email to: [email protected]
It’s best when you use your own words in your email. If you are in a rush, you can simply say:
I support the September 12, 2019 brief to the Ontario Government on its proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot project.
Feel free to copy us on your email to the Government if you wish. Our email address is [email protected]
You can write the Government as an individual. We are also eager for any community organizations to write the Government to support our brief as an organization.
In summary, the AODA Alliance brief calls for the Government not to allow e-scooters in Ontario. It urges the Government to withdraw its proposal to hold an excessive 5-year pilot that would allow anyone age 16 and up to ride e-scooters on Ontario roads and bike paths, even if they and the e-scooter have no training, are uninsured and have no license.
E-scooters racing at up to 32 KPH will create serious new public safety and disability accessibility problems. Either riding or leaving an e-scooter on a sidewalk should be banned. An e-scooter left on a sidewalk should be immediately forfeited and confiscated.
If, despite this, e-scooters are allowed at all, e-scooter rentals, like those dominating in some US cities, should not be permitted. An e-scooter and its driver should be required to have a license and insurance. Virtually silent e-scooters should be required to audibly beep when in use, to warn pedestrians, including those who are blind, that they are racing towards them.
The AODA Alliance opposes the idea of the Province first permitting e-scooters and then leaving it to municipalities to regulate them. Ontarians with disabilities and others who do not welcome a risk to their safety should not have to fight separate battles, in one city after the next. Each municipality should not be burdened to clean up the mess that the Province is proposing to create.
If, despite these serious concerns, the Government wishes to proceed with a pilot, it should be for 6 months, not 5 years. It should be restricted to a small part of Ontario. The residents of an area selected for such a pilot should have to first consent to the pilot taking place there.
To make it easier for you, below we set out the 16 recommendations in our brief. You can read the entire AODA Alliance September 12, 2019 brief on this topic by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-files-a-brief-with-ontarios-doug-ford-government-urging-that-ontario-should-not-allow-e-scooters-should-withdraw-its-proposal-for-a-5-year-e-scooter-pilot-project-or-if-allowed-sh/
We again thank the people who took the time to send us their feedback on our earlier draft of this brief. Their input helped us as we turned that draft into the finished product that we made public yesterday. We are encouraged by the strong support for our concerns that has been voiced.
2. Yet More Great Media Coverage of Our Issues Over the Past Two Weeks
To supplement the recent coverage of the disability concerns regarding the Ford Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot that has been reported in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, City TV news and several CBC radio programs, our accessibility issues have kept getting great media coverage. We set out a sampling below. We also include an item that concerns weak action by the Federal Government on the eve of the current federal election in its early days to implement the brand-new Accessible Canada Act.
1. The September 9, 2019 Toronto Star included a good editorial that raised a number of concerns that we had earlier raised with the Ford Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario. We applaud this editorial, even though the Star did not refer to the specific disability concerns that we had raised and did not mention the AODA Alliance.
2. The September 10, 2019 Toronto Star included a letter to the editor from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. It pointed out the additional disability concerns with the Ford Government’s e-scooter proposal that the Star’s September 9, 2019 editorial did not mention.
3. The Toronto Star’s September 10, 2019 edition also included an article on concerns with e-scooters that were raised at a meeting of a Toronto City council Committee. We were not involved in that committee’s meeting. That article reported on Toronto Mayor John Tory’s commendable reluctance to allow e-scooters in Toronto.
4. On September 11, 2019, CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning program included an interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the e-scooters issue. CBC posted an online news report on that issue, based on that interview. That interview supplements the interviews on the same issue that all seven other CBC local morning programs aired one week earlier, on September 4, 2019, with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.
5. The September 12, 2019 Toronto Star included another letter to the editor on the e-scooters issue. It voiced strong opposition to allowing e-scooters in Ontario. It did not refer to disability-specific concerns with e-scooters.
6. The September 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail included an article by the Canadian Press that a number of other media outlets also posted on their websites. It focuses on a number of concerns with new regulations enacted by the Canadian Transportation Agency to address disability accessibility needs in federally-regulated transportation, such as air travel. That article quoted a number of sources from the disability community, including the AODA Alliance. Its quotes of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky are to some extent inaccurate.
The regulation addressed in this article is the first such regulation enacted in this area since Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act last June. The problems with that regulation exemplify the serious concerns we raised over the past year at the House of Commons and Senate with the Accessible Canada Act leaving the Canadian Transportation Agency with responsibility for creating regulations in the area of accessible transportation. Regulations seem to cater far more to the resistance of airlines and other federally-regulated transportation providers, and too little to the needs of passengers with disabilities.
3. The Ford Government’s Dithering on the Onley Report Continues
There have been 226 days, or over seven months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has not announced any plan of action to implement the Onley report.
The Onley report showed that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing” barriers against over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities, and that Ontario Government action to redress these has been inadequate.
List of the 16 Recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 Brief to the Ontario Government Regarding E-scooters
There should be no pilot project allowing e-scooters to be driven in public places in Ontario.
The Government should withdraw this e-scooter public consultation and go back to the drawing board. If it is not prepared to withdraw this public consultation on e-scooters, the Ontario Government should at least extend the consultation period to October 31, 2019.
The rental of e-scooters should be strictly forbidden, even if private ownership of an e-scooter by a user of that e-scooter were to be permitted.
There should be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter in a public sidewalk or like location. If an e-scooter is left in such a place, it should be subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture, as well as a strict penalty.
If e-scooters are to be permitted in Ontario, they should be required to make an ongoing beeping sound when they are powered on, to warn others of their approach.
The speed limit for e-scooters should initially be set much lower than 32 KPH, such as 15 or 20 KPH, until a strong showing can be made that a higher speed limit poses no safety threat to the public.
A person wishing to drive an e-scooter should be required to first take required training on its safe operation and on the rules of the road, and then to obtain a license.
Each e-scooter should be required to be licensed and to display a readily-seen license plate number.
The owner and driver of an e-scooter should be required to carry sufficient liability insurance for injuries or other damages that the e-scooter causes to others.
All e-scooter drivers, regardless of their age, should be required to wear a helmet whenever operating an e-scooter.
No e-scooter pilot project should be held in Ontario until the Ontario Government effectively studies the impact on public safety of e-scooters in jurisdictions that have allowed them, and on options for regulatory controls of them, and has made the details of these public. A pilot project should only be held in Ontario if public safety can be fully and effectively protected.
If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, it should only take place for a period much shorter than five years, e.g. six months, and should only take place in a specific community that has consented to permit that pilot project there.
If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, the Ontario Government should retain a trusted independent organization with expertise in public safety to study the impact of e-scooters during that pilot project, and to make the full results of that study public.
The Government should not treat a ban on riding e-scooters on the sidewalk, while necessary, as a sufficient protection against the threat to public safety that e-scooters present.
nothing should be done to reduce or restrict the availability or use of powered mobility devices used by people with disabilities.
The Ontario Government should not permit e-scooters and then leave it to each municipality to regulate them or leave it to each municipality to decide if they want to permit e-scooters.
The Toronto Star September 9, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/09/09/ontario-can-do-better-on-electric-scooters.html Editorial
Let’s do better on e-scooters
Love them or loathe them, there’s no denying that two-wheeled electric scooters are finding their way onto streets, cycle paths and sidewalks all over the world.
So Ontario’s plan to regulate them is welcome, and a pilot project is a good way to find out if its rules work or a different approach is needed.
But there are significant problems with the proposal the Ford government quietly posted online last week.
The first relates to speed. That’s both the 32 km/h allowable speed for e-scooters, which is too fast to be safe for riders or the people around them, and the public consultation period.
Originally, the government thought two days would be sufficient for consultation. After an uproar that was extended until Sept. 12, which is still unnecessarily hasty.
The second concern is over the length of Ontario’s pilot project – an astonishing five years.
That’s longer than the mandate of a provincial government and it’s far too long for an e-scooter trial, especially if problems arise here as they have elsewhere. The results should be reviewed after no more than a year to decide whether it should continue, be changed or be scrapped entirely.
The current proposal would limit scooters to roads, lanes and paths where bicycles are allowed and set a minimum age of 16 to ride one.
If these rules go forward, they’ll throw open the door to rental companies that operate like bike-share programs but with dockless scooters that can be left anywhere. Tourists and locals use an app to find and unlock them.
The government’s summary of its plan breezily states that “e-scooters have been launched in more than 125 cities across the United States.”
They’re in Canadian and European cities, too. But none of that has been without considerable controversy and problems.
Chicago has fined rental companies for failing to live up to the rules it set. Nashville just ended its pilot and banned e-scooters entirely.
People in Los Angeles are vandalizing them in protest. And in Paris, a group of victims of e-scooter accidents are threatening to sue the city and demanding stricter rules to deal with the “chaos and anarchy in the streets.”
Even their credentials as a particularly green form of transport are being challenged. Are they replacing car trips or healthier walking?
While the annoyance of e-scooters cluttering sidewalks and creating tripping hazards or riders breaking laws and behaving badly gets the lion’s share of the negative attention, the people at the greatest risk are users themselves. (Most don’t wear helmets and, like cyclists, they really should.) An American study found an emergency room surge in head injuries, fractures and dislocations related to scooters.
All of this is of particular concern in Toronto, which is already struggling with its Vision Zero plan to make roads safer for everyone. There’s a lot of tension on city streets and the addition of scooter rental companies catering in part to tourists unfamiliar with the city’s traffic rules and its many potholes will only add to that.
The province’s pilot project must give municipalities the flexibility they need to manage the challenges of e-scooters and come up with local solutions.
That’s the only hope of reaping the potential benefits of this new form of shared transportation.
Around the world e-scooters have grown faster than the rules to regulate them, much like ride-hailing and home-sharing services. So, yes, let’s get ahead of it for once.
But let’s not pretend we’re starting from scratch. Ontario needs to design a pilot project that learns from mistakes elsewhere rather than simply repeating them.
The Toronto Star September 10, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/09/10/ontarians-with-disabilities-on-losing-end-of-e-scooter-pilot.html Letters to the Editor Ontarians with disabilities on losing end of e-scooter pilot Let’s do better on e-scooters, Editorial, Sept. 9
It’s great that your editorial demands the Ford government be more cautious before exposing Ontarians to the dangers that electric scooters pose if allowed. But you missed key problems.
The Star said “The people at the greatest risk are users themselves.” In fact, Ontarians with disabilities are among those at greatest risk. Rental e-scooters, routinely left on sidewalks in other cities where allowed, are a serious tripping hazard for blind people like me. They are a new accessibility barrier for people using wheelchairs or walkers. Silent e-scooters are also a danger to us blind people when we cross streets.
The Disabilities Act requires the government to lead Ontario to become barrier-free for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. The Ford government is way behind on this. E-scooters would create new disability barriers.
Those injured by e-scooters aren’t just the users, but innocent pedestrians. Premier Doug Ford promised to end hallway medicine. The hours of waiting to see a doctor in emergency rooms will only get longer as they are cluttered up with e-scooters’ victims, drivers and pedestrians.
If Ontario is to pilot e-scooters, it should have safeguards like your editorial mentioned. We must go further. Ontario shouldn’t run any pilot until and unless e-scooters’ safety risks are eliminated.
Banning e-scooters from being driven on sidewalks won’t protect us. Such a ban, while needed, is extremely difficult to enforce.
Don’t burden municipalities with cleaning up this mess. Strict provincial rules must ensure our safety.
David Lepofsky, chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, Toronto
The Toronto Star September 10, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/09/09/toronto-committee-wants-e-scooters-barred-from-sidewalks.html City wants e-scooters off sidewalks Bird CEO argues temporary ban will make launch impossible
The Toronto Star Sept. 10, 2019
Barring e-scooters from city sidewalks, recommended by a city committee on Monday, would make it impossible to introduce the concept to Toronto, according to the CEO of Bird Canada, an e-scooter company hoping to launch here in the spring of 2020.
“If you can’t park them on the sidewalk and you can’t park them on the street, I guess we’re parking them in the air?” Stewart Lyons said.
“I don’t know where we’re parking them. They can’t fly.”
Lyons was speaking after the city’s infrastructure and environment committee passed a motion that would temporarily prevent e-scooters from occupying sidewalks – at least until city staff can come up with a better plan, expected later this year.
Lyons said being able to park e-scooters on some sidewalks is a key part of the e-scooter program.
He said it would be hard to create enough demand if the scooters can’t be made available to customers right where they live and work, arguing that docking stations, such as those used by the current Bike Share Toronto program, wouldn’t be accessible enough.
Currently, users in cities where shared e-scooter programs are in place can locate scooters near them using an app.
Mayor John Tory said he supports the motion, saying it’s meant to preserve the status quo, so Toronto doesn’t have an uncontrolled and undisciplined entry of e-scooters into the market.
Tory said he is concerned about the safety of scooter use and clutter they may create, adding Toronto has many narrow sidewalks and the city must be careful with regulations controlling their use.
The mayor said he has seen scooters littering sidewalks in Austin, Texas, and has asked mayors from other cities about their experiences with the dockless devices.
“They described it all the way from successful to others who would describe it … as a gong show,” Tory said. “We don’t want any gong shows in Toronto, we don’t want people to have their safety imperiled on sidewalks or elsewhere and we don’t want the city to become cluttered.”
Tory said he personally doesn’t think e-scooters should be allowed to be driven on sidewalks, or left helter-skelter there, but he’ll wait to see what city staff propose.
The fact that e-scooters from companies such as Bird and rival firm Lime have no docking stations has led to problems in some cities, with scooters being littered across sidewalks, thrown into bushes and even into bodies of water.
Lyons said that was a problem in the early days of the program, but it’s mostly been resolved. He said the scooters were being left around because the company was hiring workers on contract who were ditching them instead of relocating them in order to save time.
These days, the company uses a more secure method to collect, charge and redistribute the scooters. The program is active in Edmonton and Calgary and is set to launch in Montreal in a couple of weeks, Lyons said.
“The good thing about Canada starting a little bit later is we have now the lessons learned and now we want to be better …. operators,” Lyons said.
The province intends to release regulations soon concerning the use of e-scooters on roads. But it’s up to the city to police sidewalks.
Committee member Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) said the ban on sidewalk use by e-scooters, if council adopts it, would be temporary, until city staff can come up with a more detailed plan.
He said the committee is already thinking of ways to refine it, but they wanted to get out in front of the issue quickly.
“We wanted to make sure that the city’s regulatory regime is out front before one of these companies tried to come into a municipality and impose a system,” said Layton, who supports the idea of docking stations for e-scooters.
The province is looking at a five-year pilot program that would allow e-scooters to be operated in the same places bicycles can operate. It’s looking for feedback by Sept. 12 on the proposal.
The proposed rules would set a minimum age for drivers at 16 and a maximum speed of 32 km/h.
E-scooters, which have been adopted in numerous cities in North America and Europe, are being pitched as a solution to gridlock in big cities and an environmentally friendly mode of transportation, but have proven controversial.
Nashville banned them entirely after a pilot project. In Los Angeles, people are vandalizing them in protest.
The problem is they clutter sidewalks when not in use, presenting obstacles for pedestrians, people pushing strollers and anyone with a visual or mobility impairment.
One U.S. study traced a surge in head injuries, fractures and dislocations treated in emergency rooms to scooter use. And researchers at North Carolina State University found that scooter travel produces more greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre than travelling by foot, bicycle or public transit.
Bird Canada is offering free trials of its scooters in the Distillery District until Sunday.
It expects to charges $1.15 to unlock its scooters and 35 cents a minute to ride them when it introduces the service next spring.
“Hopefully some cooler heads prevail between now and council,” Lyons said.
CBC Radio Ottawa September 11, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/e-scooters-disabilities-ontario-feedback-pilot-project-1.5278879 Ottawa Scrap Ontario e-scooter pilot, disability advocate urges
Province seeking feedback ahead of proposed 5-year pilot project
The Ontario government is considering a five-year pilot project that would allow e-scooters on the province’s roads, but disability advocates have major concerns with the plan. (Mike
A group that advocates for the rights of disabled Ontarians is urging the province to hit the brakes on a proposed five-year e-scooter pilot project before it begins.
The province has been seeking public feedback on their plan to allow electric scooters on the same roads where bicycles can operate, save for provincial highways.
Ontario plans to launch 5-year pilot project that allows e-scooters on roads Why an image problem is slowing e-scooter rollout in Canada
Under the proposed pilot, drivers would have to be at least 16 years old and could not have passengers. The e-scooters could not exceed a maximum operating speed of 32 km/h.
Even with those limitations, allowing e-scooters on the roads will make it harder for people with disabilities to get around, and could lead to more injuries, said David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.
“We’ve got lots of proof that these pose a lot of problems,” Lepofsky told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning. “We don’t need to experiment on Ontarians.”
‘An instant barrier’
Many e-scooter rental services around the world allow users to sign out the devices using an app and then once they’re done with them simply leave them behind on a sidewalk or other public space.
While Lepofsky’s group has asked the Ontario government to kill its pilot project entirely, it has also come up with 12 draft recommendations should the experiment ultimately go ahead.
They include cutting the maximum speed limit by as much as half, requiring drivers to be licensed and levying strict penalties if the scooters are dumped on sidewalks though Lepofsky admits that last recommendation could be hard to enforce.
Something can be barrelling at me at 32 kilometres an hour … and I can’t know they’re coming.
“You’re walking down the street, you’re blind, and all of the sudden there’s an instant barrier, a tripping hazard in your path,” said Lepofsky, who’s been blind most of his life.
“Five minutes later it could be gone … how do you prove your case? We don’t have police on every corner just waiting to enforce [that restriction].”
Then, there’s the fact the scooters are largely silent: Lepofsky also wants the e-scooters, if they’re allowed, to emit beeping noises that warn others of their approach.
“Something can be barrelling at me at 32 km/h, ridden at me by an unlicensed and uninsured driver,” Lepofsky said. “And I can’t know they’re coming.”
David Lepofsky, a law professor and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says the province should rethink its plans for a five-year e-scooter pilot project. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)
Safety ‘key consideration’
Lepofsky also questioned the need for a five-year study that would be rolled out from one end of Ontario to the other.
“If you want to see if it’s safe on our roads, you do it for a much [narrower] piece of territory, not the entire province of Ontario, and for a much shorter period six months or something like that is what we’d propose,” he said.
San Francisco-based Lime has already been lobbying Ottawa city councillors, claiming its dockless e-scooters would be an ideal fit with the city’s stated transportation goals.
The company recently wrapped up a trial rollout at the University of Waterloo, with competitor Bird Canada slated to launch a similar project this month in Toronto’s Distillery District.
E-scooter pilot project to launch in Toronto, but major hurdles remain Lime e-scooter pilot project to end in Waterloo
Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation declined an interview with CBC News, but said in a statement that all feedback heard during the consultation process “will be taken into consideration before any final decisions on the pilot take place.”
“Ensuring that new vehicle types can integrate safely with pedestrians and other vehicles is a key consideration before any new vehicle type will be allowed on-road,” the statement said.
The public consultation period wraps up Sept. 12.
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning
The Toronto Star September 12, 2019
Letters to the editor
E-scooters have no place in current infrastructure
City wants e-scooters off sidewalks, Sept. 10
Toronto is in the throes of a traffic crisis. Deaths and injuries are occurring daily.
To this we plan to add e-scooters, which can travel at 32 kph, into the already-congested bike lanes, to be ultimately discarded on our sidewalks?
Surely wisdom dictates that adding another form of transportation into this chaos is not a move to be contemplated until our city figures out a way to make commuters safe within our present infrastructure. E-scooters? Eek!
Judith Butler, Toronto
The Globe and Mail September 9, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-advocates-say-new-canadian-air-travel-rules-present-greater-barriers/ Report on Business Advocates of accessible air travel say new rules raise barriers to mobility By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS
THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL – Tracy Odell recalls with a mix of pride and pain the sunny spring day two years ago that her daughter got married in California.
Pride in the milestone. Pain at having to miss it.
Airlines, she said, effectively failed to accommodate her disability, a problem that thousands of Canadians continue to face despite new rules designed in theory to open the skies to disabled travellers.
As seating space shrank and cargo doors were often too small for customized wheelchairs, Ms.Odell cut back on the flights she once took routinely for her work with a non-profit.
“My wheelchair is part of me,” said Ms. Odell, 61, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that gradually prevents forming and keeping the muscles needed to walk, balance, eat and even breathe. “I’m helpless without it.”
“It’s like if someone says, I’m sorry, you can travel but we have to unscrew your legs,’ ” said Ms.Odell, who last took an airplane in 2009.
Her $18,000 mobility device is not allowed in the aircraft cabin, nor can it fit through some cargo doors without being tipped on its side, risking damage. As a result, her husband opted to stay by her side and miss their daughter’s San Jose wedding, too.
Ms. Odell, president of Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, is one of a number of advocates who say new rules ostensibly designed to make air travel more accessible fail to go far enough – and, in some cases, mark a step backward.
“It’s called second-class citizenry. I’ve felt it all my life,” said Marcia Yale, a lifelong advocate for blind Canadians.
The regulations, rolled out in June under a revised Canada Transportation Act – with most slated to take effect in June, 2020 – do little to improve spotty airport service or accommodate attendants and service dogs on international flights, she said.
“These are going backwards,” Ms. Yale said, citing carriers’ legal duty to accommodate. “We wanted pro-active regulations that were going to raise the bar. And in some ways, they’ve lowered it.”
The new rules require travellers to notify airlines anywhere from 48 to 96 hours in advance to receive certain accommodations, such as being guided through security or receiving help transferring from a wheelchair to a smaller, cabin-compatible mobility device. There are currently no rules requiring notification that can jeopardize last-minute travel for work or emergencies.
Many passenger planes’ cargo doors are about 79 centimetres in height – a little more than 2 1/2 – slightly smaller than a typical power wheelchair for youth, said Terry Green, chairman of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ transportation committee.
“These aircraft are totally restricting adults who use large mobility devices from travelling,” he said, saying many wheelchairs cannot fit into cargo at all.
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) says it will be “monitoring … very closely” a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration study on wheelchair anchor systems, with an eye to allowing passengers to remain seated in the cabin in their mobility devices. A report is expected in the next three years.
David Lepofsky, an adjunct law professor at the University of Toronto, is reminded of the challenges facing disabled passengers by the case of a couple abandoned in their wheelchairs for 12 hours after being dropped at a service counter in the Vancouver airport en route to Edmonton from their home in Nepal earlier this year.
He can relate.
“There are times it takes me longer to get out of the airport than it took to fly here,” said Prof. Lepofsky, who is blind and travels frequently for lectures.
Prof. Lepofsky says he’ll often ask a passerby to guide him to the gate rather than go through the stop-and-go relay he’s experienced with airport and airline agents.
The Canadian Transportation Agency’s stated goals, variously defined as “equal access” and “more accessible” service, conflict with each other, leaving levels of accommodation unclear, Prof. Lepofsky said.
The rules require an airport to provide a disabled passenger with curb-to-gate assistance, except “if the transportation provider is providing that service.”
“It’s good that they spell out what has to be provided; it’s bad that there are so many escape clauses,” Prof. Lepofsky said.
He added that the confusion may be more tolerable if airports were required to install way-finding beacons – which connect with an app on a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth to offer verbal directions (Toronto’s Pearson airport recently added the devices) – or kiosks with audio output, an omission he deemed “inexcusable.”
The new rules come alongside a passenger bill of rights that beefs up compensation for travellers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.
Consumer- rights advocates have said the regulations grant airlines loopholes to avoid payment, while Canadian carriers have launched a legal challenge to quash provisions they argue breach international standards.
Meanwhile, the new accessibility regulations require free travel for an attendant or guide dog in an adjacent seat only on domestic flights, with taxes and fees still applicable. A second phase of the regulatory process, now under way, will consider extending the one-person-one-fare requirement to international flights, according to the CTA.