April 15th, 2024

Feds announce air accessibility summit to confront ‘unacceptable’ barriers

By The Canadian Press on March 18, 2024.

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez arrives to a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. The federal government says it will host a summit on air accessibility in May amid what it calls "completely unacceptable" barriers to Canadians living with disabilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The federal government says it will host a summit on air accessibility in May amid what it calls “completely unacceptable” barriers to Canadians living with disabilities.

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez says airlines have failed to meet the treatment standards that passengers with disabilities deserve, calling for more responsibility from the aviation sector.

Multiple incidents have surfaced at Canadian airlines over the past year, including when a B.C. man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to drag himself off of an Air Canada plane in Las Vegas.

David Lepofsky, visiting research professor of disability rights at Western University, says the time for “chit-chat” has long passed and that tougher rules and enforcement are needed to ensure a dignified travel experience for all passengers.

He and other advocates argue that loopholes persist after legislative reforms in 2019, and that regulators remain reluctant to levy fines big enough to deter breaches.

The government says the accessibility summit on May 9 aims to convene representatives from industry and disability communities to discuss problems and pinpoint solutions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2024.

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