Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
https://www.aodaalliance.org email@example.com Twitter: @aodaalliance YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance
November 9, 2023
Today, Air Canada apologized for its recurring pattern of horrendous service for some passengers with disabilities, which has triggered horrible news coverage for the airline. Air Canada has at last announced a strengthened plan of action to improve its services. See the Air Canada news release and several news articles on this, below.
It is good that Air Canada has belatedly started to take some action. Up to now, Air Canada has appeared to respond to each appalling incident by apologizing, offering money to the victim and going right back to business as usual.
However, Air Canadas announcement has several troubling problems, such as:
* Air Canada only commits to improve service for passengers with disabilities. Air Canada could achieve the paltry goal of improving service by merely achieving a modest reduction in the number of appalling incidents of mistreatment of passengers with disabilities. Passengers with disabilities deserve better.
* It is striking that Air Canada does not today commit to deliver fully accessible, barrier-free services to passengers with disabilities. It is Air Canadas obligation under the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Accessible Canada Act to provide fully accessible, barrier-free service.
* The Air Canada action plan appears to focus primarily if not entirely on the needs of passengers using wheelchairs. We of course agree that those passengers need dramatic reforms. However, it is essential for Air Canada to expand its action plan to similarly address the seriously underserved accessibility needs of all passengers with all kinds of disabilities. There should be no hierarchy among disabilities.
* It is good that Air Canada today announced that it is creating a new senior position of Director, Customer Accessibility. However, there is no indication whether this position will report directly to the CEO of Air Canada. Anything less will not do. Unless the CEO steps up to the plate and assumes direct leadership on accessibility for passengers with disabilities, there is a real and serious risk that this new position will be ineffective, lost in the bureaucratic shuffle at such a large corporation. Air Canada needs a Chief Accessibility Officer, as experience from other major corporations has proven.
* There is no announcement of any concerted effort by Air Canada to internally audit its day-to-day treatment of passengers with disabilities, such as through a much-needed secret shopper program whose results are regularly made public.
* The new Air Canada action plan was established a mere five months after Air Canada announced its multi-year accessibility plan under the Accessible Canada Act. Why is it that todays new measures were not all included in that original multi-year accessibility plan? Air Canada already knew of its repeated incidents of mistreatment of too many passengers with disabilities when it created this multi-year accessibility plan.
While helpful to a point, todays announcement by air Canada falls far short of what passengers with disabilities need. What Canada desperately needs is for the federal regulator of airlines, the Canada Transportation Agency, to step up to the plate and to far better fulfil its enforcement mandate under the Canada Transportation Act and the Accessible Canada Act.
The CTA has a sorry track record that favours the airlines and seriously underserves vulnerable airline passengers with disabilities. It is not good enough for the CTA to leave it to passengers to lodge formal complaints and try to navigate CTAs sluggish, inadequate enforcement processes. CTA should be effectively and pro-actively enforcing the law through, for example, regular, unannounced on-site spot audits of the airlines and especially an airline like Air Canada whose practices are systemically deficient.
As documented on the AODA Alliance websites Canada page, in 2018 and 2019, the AODA Alliance and other disability advocates told Parliament that the Accessible Canada Act should be amended to take away from the CTA its mandate on accessibility issues because of its sorry track record. The Federal Government did not listen to us. The result has been another four years of ineffective law enforcement, to the detriment of passengers with disabilities.
Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance
November 9, 2023 Air Canada News Release
Originally posted at https://media.aircanada.com/2023-11-09-Air-Canada-Takes-Action-to-Improve-Experience-for-Customers-with-Disabilities Air Canada Takes Action to Improve Experience for Customers with Disabilities
Multi-pronged strategy to improve boarding, secure mobility devices, enhance lift capability and simplify travel Air Canada to invest more resources in training and equipment
MONTREAL, Nov. 9, 2023 /CNW/ – Air Canada today announced a series of measures to reduce barriers and make travel simpler, more comfortable and consistently reliable for customers with disabilities. The actions being taken will accelerate Air Canada’s Accessibility Plan 2023-26, a three-year strategy released in June, and are intended to reduce or eliminate major sources of dissatisfaction and trip disruption for customers with disabilities.
“Air Canada recognizes the challenges customers with disabilities encounter when they fly and accepts its responsibility to provide convenient and consistent service so that flying with us becomes easier. Sometimes we do not meet this commitment, for which we offer a sincere apology. As our customers with disabilities tell us, the most important thing is that we continuously improve in the future. We are listening to them and today we are committing to do better and demonstrating that commitment with concrete actions,” said Michael Rousseau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Air Canada.
“In June, we released our three-year accessibility plan. The measures we are announcing today accelerate key components in that plan. This includes improving boarding and seating, better customer communications, new processes to prevent delays or damage to mobility devices, more training and an investment in equipment such as lifts. We also intend to implement further measures as we strive to make Air Canada accessible for people managing disabilities,” said Craig Landry, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at Air Canada.
Air Canada is acting to make travel easier and more comfortable for customers with disabilities. This will include working with the airline’s regional partners to ensure consistency. The following measures, which are fully in line with the airline’s new, three-year Accessibility Plan, are being implemented now to have effect and produce benefits more immediately. The initiatives include:
Boarding: Customers at the gate who request lift assistance will be consistently boarded first before all other customers and proactively seated at the front of the cabin they booked. Air Canada is investing significantly in new equipment at Canadian airports, such as lifts, to ensure that we can meet the expectations of our customers.
Storage of mobility aids: Mobility aids will be stored in the aircraft cabin when possible. When mobility aids are stored in the cargo hold, new systems are being put in place to track them in transit, including a process to confirm mobility aids are properly loaded before departure. Customers travelling within Canada will be able to track the journey of their mobility aid using the Air Canada app. In addition, the airline is adopting new processes to load mobility aids in the aircraft holds to ensure our customers’ mobility aids arrive safely.
Training: Enhanced training will be supplied to improve all aspects of employee interactions with customers with disabilities, including understanding customer experiences in air travel. Air Canada’s approximately 10,000 airport employees will receive this training as part of a new annual, recurrent training program. This will consist of both soft skill and equipment training, such as lifting techniques. Customers with disabilities will be invited to make presentations at employee workshops and provide advice on further process developments.
Responsibility: Air Canada has created the new senior position of Director, Customer Accessibility. She will lead a team to manage implementation of the company’s accessibility plan as well as provide a resource and common reference point for responsive management of disability issues.
Due to advances in technology and customer needs, there has been a welcome and continual increase in travel demand from people with disabilities. Along with this, societal expectations are also evolving. Companies must constantly review and improve their accessibility capabilities to keep them in line with current advancements. Air Canada embraces this. In June, the airline finalized a three-year plan to increase accessibility for customers and employees called Air Canada’s Accessibility Plan 2023-26. It also fully supports the Government of Canada’s Accessible Canada Act and its aim to realize a barrier-free Canada by 2040.
About Air Canada
Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline, the country’s flag carrier and a founding member of Star Alliance, the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network. Air Canada provides scheduled service directly to more than 180 airports in Canada, the United States and Internationally on six continents. It holds a Four-Star ranking from Skytrax. Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is Canada’s premier travel loyalty program, where members can earn or redeem points on the world’s largest airline partner network of 45 airlines, plus through an extensive range of merchandise, hotel and car rental rewards. Its freight division, Air Canada Cargo, provides air freight lift and connectivity to hundreds of destinations across six continents using Air Canada’s passenger and freighter aircraft. Air Canada aims to achieve an ambitious net zero emissions goal from all global operations by 2050. Air Canada shares are publicly traded on the TSX in Canada and the OCTQX in the US.
CP24 November 9, 2023
Air Canada CEO apologizes for accessibility barriers, rolls out new measures
Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau has apologized for the airline’s accessibility shortfalls and announced new measures to improve the travel experience for hundreds of thousands of passengers living with a disability.
On Thursday, Rousseau said the carrier will speed up a three-year accessibility plan after a number of recent reports of passenger mistreatment, including an incident where a man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to drag himself off of an airplane in Las Vegas due to a lack of assistance.
“Air Canada recognizes the challenges customers with disabilities encounter when they fly and accepts its responsibility to provide convenient and consistent service so that flying with us becomes easier. Sometimes we do not meet this commitment, for which we offer a sincere apology,” the chief executive said in a release.
“As our customers with disabilities tell us, the most important thing is that we continuously improve in the future. We are listening to them and today we are committing to do better and demonstrating that commitment with concrete actions.”
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 an eagle 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, said that as a blind person he “dreads” flying in Canada because of unreliable service, despite an overhaul of regulations starting in 2020.
“The inconsistency with the quality of the ground assistance you get is appalling,” he said.
“The problem is that we’ve got airlines that systemically are not ensuring that they respect that law and obey it, and a law enforcement regime that’s fatally flawed.”
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.
Air Canada executives sat down Thursday morning with Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Kamal Khera, minister of diversity, inclusion and persons with disabilities, after a summons from Rodriguez last week prompted by several high-profile events involving passengers with disabilities.
These included the Las Vegas incident with 50-year-old Rodney Hodgins, which triggered an investigation by the Canadian Transportation Agency. That event prompted B.C. comedian Ryan Lachance, who has spastic quad cerebral palsy, to come forward with his story of being dropped and injured by Air Canada staff while trying to exit a plane in Vancouver in May. Crew had declined to use the lift he needs to leave his seat.
“All Canadians must be treated with dignity and respect. Full stop,” Rodriguez said in a statement on Nov. 3.
“They must present a plan to address this. Canadians expect Air Canada to do better.”
CBC News November 3, 2023
Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/air-canada-ottawa-airline-disabilities-1.7018398 Air Canada summoned to Ottawa after multiple incidents involving passengers with wheelchairs
Transport minister says airline must present a plan to address treatment of passengers with disabilities
Michelle Ghoussoub CBC News
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez rises during question period
Canada’s Minister of Transport Pablo Rodriguez said Air Canada representatives must present a plan to improve the experiences of people with disabilities on the airline. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Canada’s minister of transport has summoned representatives from Air Canada to Ottawa, following three high-profile events involving passengers with disabilities.
Representatives from the airline will meet with the minister and Kamal Khera, diversity, inclusion and persons with disabilities minister, next week, a statement from Pablo Rodriguez said, noting he was “horrified’ to learn of yet another incident on Thursday.
“All Canadians must be treated with dignity and respect. Full stop,” he said in the statement. “They must present a plan to address this. Canadians expect Air Canada to do better.”
The call from Rodriguez comes a day after the airline said it violated Canadian disability regulations in the case of 50-year-old Rodney Hodgins.
Hodgins, who has cerebral palsy, was forced to drag himself off an Air Canada flight in Las Vegas when he was told no wheelchair assistance was available. The incident garnered international attention and triggered an investigation by the Canadian Transportation Agency.
After a series of ‘humiliating’ incidents aboard Air Canada flights involving passengers who use wheelchairs, Transportation Minister Pablo Rodriguez has summoned the airline to his office in Ottawa.
The story also prompted Ryan Lachance, a B.C.-based comedian with spastic quad cerebral palsy, to come forward with his experience on the airline.
In early May, Lachance was dropped and injured by Air Canada staff while attempting to disembark a flight in Vancouver, after crew declined to use the eagle lift he requires to leave his seat.
Air Canada says it violated disability regulations when passenger in wheelchair made to drag himself off plane
Video of the incident captured by his care assistant shows Lachance on the ground and crashing into airline seats as crew members try to lift him.
The move also comes after Stephanie Cadieux, Canada’s chief accessibility officer, said her wheelchair was lost by Air Canada on a recent flight.
A man in a wheelchair looks off to his right while in a house.
Ryan Lachance, who lives with quad-spastic cerebral palsy, is pictured in his apartment in White Rock, British Columbia on Wednesday, November 1, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Passenger forced to drag himself off Air Canada flight after airline failed to provide wheelchair assistance
In a statement, Air Canada said it was conducting internal reviews in all three cases.
“In each case, we reached out to these customers to apologize, listen to their concerns, and offer compensation. More important to each of them though was that we commit to improve our services so that others do not have similar experiences,” the statement read in part.
The statement said in June the airline finalized a three-year plan to increase accessibility for both customers and employees, and said it “fully supports the federal government’s Accessible Canada Act and its aim to realize a barrier-free Canada by 2040.”
Air Canada said it devotes “considerable resources” to make travel accessible, and employs 180 employees in Toronto whose primary role is to assist with mobility.
“In light of this, we are deeply disappointed and sincerely regret when there are mobility service lapses that result in inconvenience and travel disruption,” the statement read.
Air Canada has apologized to a B.C. man after staff told him he would need to get to the front of the plane without any assistance. The airline has also admitted it violated Canadian disability legislation. Rodney Hodgins hopes the situation will lead to systemic change.
In a written apology to the Hodgins, Air Canada acknowledged the experience was “very inconvenient and humiliating.” The airline offered Rodney and Deanna Hodgins a $1,000 flight voucher each. Lachance was offered a voucher worth $500.
Rodney Hodgins said he hopes to meet with Air Canada personally to offer his suggestions to improve accessibility.
“I want you to stick whatever you were going to give me back into your company to develop a program to make people with disabilities have an easier time travelling with your airline,” he said.
Lachance said he believes staffers need more training on the equipment available to them, including eagle lifts and aisle chairs.
“I know this happens to people all the time,” he said.
After a series of ‘humiliating’ incidents aboard Air Canada flights involving passengers who use wheelchairs, Transportation Minister Pablo Rodriguez has summoned the airline to his office in Ottawa.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Reporter, CBC News
Michelle Ghoussoub is a reporter and anchor for CBC News based in Vancouver. She has received a nomination for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Reporter. She can be reached at email@example.com.
CBC News November 2, 2023
Originally posted at https://ca.news.yahoo.com/air-canada-says-violated-disability-233918081.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGRLeGcL_Q1EUewuRIJMV9C9XTyGBchonYGYG1iQuQ6d1SCW4ISd38h37AGEfUz2xJW40UcMKBZA1yjLJ–4iO5li2mdXZubgyUJLVAxwohQGxxj8G3ZT2eKQ1HBYfn_iQny9YPbZc3GI4anhIMcylUIb0cZ-R2H1QfPZI66kNfe
Air Canada says it violated disability act after passenger in wheelchair forced to drag himself off flight CBC
Thu, November 2, 2023 at 7:39 p.m. EDT·4 min read
Rodney and Deanna Hodgins are pictured at their home in Prince George, B.C. The Canadian Transportation Agency has launched an investigation into their experience on an Air Canada flight to Las Vegas. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC – image credit)
Air Canada has issued an apology to a man who uses a wheelchair, saying it violated the Canadians with Disabilities Act when he was forced to drag himself off a flight because of a lack of available assistance.
Rodney and Deanna Hodgins were travelling to Las Vegas from Vancouver on August 30 when an Air Canada crew member told the Hodgins he would need to get to the front of the plane without any assistance.
Rodney, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair, usually exits the plane with the help of an aisle chair, a narrow version of a wheelchair.
Rodney, 50, dragged himself through the aisle to the front of the plane by pulling on seat legs, with Deanna crawling behind him, moving his legs.
The incident, which caused Rodney significant pain, garnered national and international attention.
Beenish Awan, a representative with Air Canada, sent the Hodgins a lengthy statement, which read in part, “it was a very inconvenient and humiliating experience for both of you. I am genuinely sorry to hear about your and your husband’s experience and offer my sincere apologies for the experience.
“Based on the information we currently have available; we have to regrettably admit that Air Canada was in violation of the disability regulations. I reiterate my genuine apologies for disappointing you.”
The airline also offered the couple $2,000 in flight credits.
Rodney Hodgins said he still hopes Air Canada will reach out to him for a conversation about how to improve flying for people with disabilities, including needed changes to aisle chairs. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)
Deanna Hodgins said the admission of wrongdoing represented “a victory.”
“To admit you’re wrong, that’s what we wanted. Now we just want to see change. Because you can say sorry, but you have to institute change to be sorry.”
The Las Vegas incident with the Hodgins was also discussed in Parliament, with NDP MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam, Bonita Zarillo, calling what happened to Rodney “degrading and a violation of human rights.”