The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is calling on the Senate of Canada to make amendments to strengthen requirements to accommodate visually impaired Canadians.
The Senate resumed sitting at the end of January 2018 and said it continue its study of Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act.
CNIB supports the passage of this important piece of legislation, specifically the creation of an airline Passenger Bill of Rights.
Canadians with sight loss have difficulties travelling in Canada independently, especially when travelling on an airplane. Problems exists in all facets of airline travel: from booking tickets, to navigating airports, and providing sufficient space for passengers with sight loss and their guide dogs.
“Flying in Canada and internationally is often difficult. I can’t independently book my own ticket online,” said Diane Bergeron, CNIB Vice President, Engagement and International Affairs. “Canadian airline websites fail to meet basic usability guidelines, which makes travel planning nearly impossible. When I’m lucky and I can book my flights, I’m often told to call someone because I have a guide dog. We want this Bill to be amended so that accommodations for Canadians with sight loss are enshrined in the Passenger Bill of Rights. Canadians with sight loss continue to encounter unnecessary barriers when travelling by air, and many of these simply do not need to exist.”
The Senate has two options: pass the Bill as is or send it back to the House of Commons with amendments.
“The legislation isn’t bad, in fact, Canada needs a Passenger Bill of Rights,” said Thomas Simpson, CNIB’s Manager of Operations and Government Affairs. “The problem CNIB has is there is no disability lens on Bill C-49. No one took the time to think about problems that exist for Canadians with disabilities who travel, and how this piece of legislation can help alleviate these problems. I’d like to think in 2018 that the Government of Canada would think about persons with disability when drafting all legislation.”
Fran Cutler, a Canadian with sight loss who often flies when travelling, has often experienced barriers to her independence when flying, most recently as a result of the attendant call buttons.
“The flight attendant call button is no longer accessible for me and for hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have sight loss,” said Cutler. “The familiar physical call buttons have been moved to the touchscreen on many refurbished aircraft models. Imagine how helpless you would feel if you could not see the screen and you were ill or being harassed by another passenger!”
Bill C-49, known as the Transportation Modernization Act, seeks to modernize Canada’s Transportation Act and several other associated pieces of legislation. Bill C-49 seeks to create a Passenger Bill of Rights to create standards for how national airlines treat Canadian passengers.
CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. Founded in 1918, we’re entering our 100th year of operation – and celebrating a century of changing individual lives and society as a whole. Throughout our history, advocacy has been a key focus of our work.
To learn more, visit cnib.ca or call 1-800-563-2642.