Travelling to the North to Gather Information towards Developing CTA Accessibility Regulations for Small Carriers and Terminals Not Covered by the Accessible Transportation for People with Disabilities Regulation (ATPDR)

What follows is an Aug 18, 2023 conversation that, April D’Aubin, Janet Hunt, Jason Nashtootaway, Richard Belzile, and Heather Walkus had about travelling on some of Canada’s smaller federally regulated transportation providers. Interpretation was provided for this conversation by Annette Sandy.

Hello, I am Heather Walkus. It is my honour to discuss and report on the travel as the Chair of Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and also the CCD representative at the Canadian Transportation Agency Accessibility Advisory table.

I had the pleasure to accompany France Pégeot, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency and the staff at CTA, George Ross, Matthieu Labelle, and Alexei Baturin. We travelled to Whitehorse and to Dawson City, Yukon in June 2023 and met with representatives of small carriers and airports and staff.

I'm Janet Hunt. I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  I have been blind since my mid-thirties. It was kind of a sudden loss of vision.  I worked for Manitoba Public Insurance for 20 years as a sighted person, and then after some rehab I went back and did another 20 years as a blind person before I retired 2 years ago. I am a member of the Coalition of Guide and Service Dog Users and I am the rep. on the CTA access advisory committee for the Coalition.

My name is Jason Nashtootaway. I'm from Kashechewan, ON.  It's northern Ontario near James Bay.  I live in Belleville currently. I work as the Indigenous Deaf Researcher for the Canadian Association of the Deaf.

My name is Richard Belzile.  I'm the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD).   I'm also on the CTA Advisory Committee.  So I'm glad to hear about the wonderful experiences that Jason's had and the others as well.

My name is April D’Aubin and I am the Research Analyst/Coordinator at CCD.

Heather, could give us a brief overview of how these travels came about.

Heather:  The CTA Chair and President, France Pégeot, determined it was important to have several fact finding trips to northern areas of Canada that are regulated by the CTA, This was to gain a better understanding of the barriers and realities that small carriers and terminals face in developing inclusive and accessible travel. Chair Pégeot, is responsible for developing accessibility regulations for small carriers and terminals at this time. This is phase two after the development of the Accessible Transportation for People with Disabilities Regulation (ATPDR) which went into force on June 25, 2020 for larger carriers and terminals. To that end, along with some of her staff, at the Centre of Excellence for Accessible Travel or CEAT, Chair Pégeot who is committed to Nothing About Us, Without Us, invited a few people with expertise from the cross disability and Deaf community to go on these trips with her.

In the intersectional cross disability and Deaf communities, we will continue to work together, share information and strategize together, and will have a stronger voice at the table to support the writing of these new regulation.

April: So, Jason and, Janet, perhaps you could tell us a little bit about your study tour with the CTA.

Jason, perhaps you could start off, but with the where you, where you travel to, what kind of modes of transportation you've got to test out.

Jason: So we flew to Quebec City and from there we flew to Sept Isle. We spent the night in Sept Isle and in the morning we took a train to Shefferville.  It was a 14 hour train ride. We arrived in the evening at 10 PM. The following day we went on Air Inuit back to Sept Isle then back to Montreal.

My experience with the stewardess was really good. She was open and willing to write notes with me and said if I needed anything, about the emergency evacuation should there be a need for that and how to call and get her attention, should there be a need for that and how to call and get her attention by pressing the button and how to call and get her attention by pressing the button and she would come so she was very good, using my preferred way of communicating. I also used my iPhone to order drinks and to be able to communicate using my iPhone as a replacement for written notes. On the train as well, everyone was very friendly and very accommodating if I needed anything. If there should be any stop the train for whatever reason they went through explaining that process.

The train that we were on was quite old. And I can imagine if they ever were to purchase new cars they could install a flashing light or some sort of message board. There were quite a few stops because there were people getting off the train in small communities. It was kind of the milk run, but it would be nice to see which community we were at. You know, to have some sort of message board that would identify which community you were at. As a deaf person it would be nice to see something like that. And if the train was to stop or break down, the staff there would use notes to explain, you know, what's going on and why there were delays and so on. But I think for myself just installing a message board, an electronic message board would be helpful or useful.

I also flew with Air Inuit and the stewardess there was very good as well. She was open to communicating with me and did the same process, wrote notes said if there were any problems or if there were any delays that she would let me know.

I was thinking, you know, sometimes, flights will stop in other communities to let people get off and have new passengers board some people would have to disembark and then wait in the airport, but if there were any delays and we had to stay overnight or something like that it would be nice if the stewardess would explain or someone would explain that there were delays in that sense.

So I have traveled in the past with Air Cree and that's an airline that's up north near my community and sometimes they would stop in Moussini for example and I didn't know why. We were disembarking and it happened to me once where I disembarked and just waited. I didn't know why we were disembarking. Generally it's usually 15 or 20 minutes, but the time that I experienced, no one told me why. So I had no clue that we were disembarking for the evening. So just getting that communication would be really important.

If you're in the terminal and there are any delays and there are announcements, it's important that staff be aware that I'm Deaf and they could approach me and let me know just by written communication that would be a solution. I think that's all I have to say. I think the staff were very accommodating so that I have very little feedback. Just as long as the staff are aware and don't forget that I'm Deaf and I'm there. That's it.

Heather: I've got a question for you Jason and that is did you meet with any of the management of either the airlines or the train during your trip?

Jason: Yes, I did. I met, the train manager. So there was a brief meeting and a discussion and we talked about how to make services better for blind individuals, for people with mobility impairments, and Deaf people. We spoke to management there and they were listening to us but the train is very old and they said if they were doing any updates they were purchasing new cars that they would install a message board. I also met with PAL airlines management and we had a group meeting there. We I talked about my experiences as a Deaf person and I think it went quite well. Some of the management had questions for us, you know, around, wheelchair use, people with disabilities in general and we gave them some feedback, we asked questions, and they seemed open to listening to us. They made notes.

Heather: And I've got 2 more questions. One is how did you find the CTA staff? And then the second question will be would you like to participate in helping to define the regulations for the smaller areas?

Jason: I would be interested in participating in those group discussions because you know I've experienced quite a bit of travel growing up in the north. Because I'm from the north. I went to school in the south. I went to school in Toronto, Belleville. So I traveled quite often so I would be interested in participating in that. Anything that's to do with transportation would be fantastic.

Heather:  And the CTA staff how did you find them as far as being able to work with them? Do you think France is bringing a good perspective to that organization?

Jason: Yeah, I had discussions with them and through the interpreters, of course, but we had some discussions. I talked about my experiences, you know, growing up and traveling quite a bit and they were open to listening to it. I thought it went well.

Richard: I just wanted to share that I didn't participate in the trip, so I wasn't there myself and I wanted to ask Jason, a question as well. I'm curious about what happened. But when you used your iPhone with the stewardess as a communication tool in the airplane or even on the train. Did you have Wi-Fi?

Jason: No, I had no internet. There was no out Wi-Fi or signal. Not on the train or plane, no.

Richard: So I was just thinking for myself. There are apps voice to tech. Do they work without Wi-Fi?

Jason: I didn't use it.  It was mostly body language, gesturing, giving a thumbs up. If I needed to communicate, I used written note. But in the future as things evolve, I think they should be able to access voice to text.

Richard: Okay, well you make a good point because I was just wondering on the train and on the plane. I know they you had an interpreter close by sitting in the next seat to you, but you didn't use them.

Did you try to communicate with the stewardess or with the staff using a written format or did you use the interpreters at all?

Jason: Well, you're correct in assuming the interpreters were there. But I wanted to have the experience of traveling without an interpreter and see if the staff would be able to accommodate me and be open to that because in the future other Deaf people may be traveling alone and won't have a sign language interpreter with them. So it's important that the staff also have the experience in speaking to a deaf person and not to depend on the interpreter. I guess it would depend if I was traveling with the interpreter. I would use them, but I definitely did when we were having the group meetings. But when it came to giving feedback and having that experience I just wanted to see if the staff were amenable to working with me. If they were open to that, if or if they were not open to it. So that's the stewardesses and the other staff would have the real experience of having to deal with a deaf person and we're open to it.

Richard: So I did have another question, if you don't mind. What about food? I know on the train that you should get into an explanation about what choices there are if you want. It can be challenging sometimes. How was your experience?

Jason: Well, usually the stewardesses will come by with their drink cart. Now you just point. And the woman will say, is this what you want? And I'll point and say, nod my head. When it comes to different beverages like if it's soda, tomato juice or whatever, I'll just point. That's fairly simple. But if I need to let them know something more than that, then I use my phone. I'll just type into my phone and make a note and show it to them. Or I'll, you know, press the light for the stewardess to come. When it comes to food you usually have options. When I was growing up, they would just bring us food. You know, they'd have one in one hand and something else in the other hand and I would just point at it. Then I'd get that particular meal. It was fairly simple. But for Air Canada, the bigger airlines, you're right they usually have menus and you can just point to the menu. When it comes to religious foods or specific dietary requirements, usually you put that on your booking Information.

Richard: I was just wondering if on your ticket if there was something indicating that you were Deaf?

Jason: Yes. When I got my ticket, I let them know that I was Deaf. And they said okay and then when they printed my ticket it said Deaf on it. So when I went to PAL Airlines they could see that I was Deaf and they said okay and then they wrote out notes for me. It was on my ticket that I was Deaf and I also pointed it out to the clerk there. So that they were reminded that I was Deaf and so they were open to communicating with me -- gesturing and what not.

Oh, just one more thing I forgot to add. In the terminal, being a Deaf person and traveling on my own with PAL airlines they asked me if I wanted an escort. And I said, no, I don't need an escort, but I guess it would depend on the Deaf individual. I can travel independently but others may not feel as comfortable if they haven't traveled a lot. Or maybe they have other disabilities in addition to being Deaf they might need that service but I didn't feel like I needed an escort. I just went to the gate and I watched for an announcement and just watched the crowds. If I needed them to remind me of something, I just point out to them that I'm Deaf and let them know where I'm at. So hopefully they won't forget about me.

April: Janet, perhaps you could share, how the, travel was for you.

Janet: I did the same trip as Jason. We went to northern Quebec -- first from Montreal to Sept Isle was PAL Air and then from there we took the train which I think was 15 hours.  We went to Shefferville.  I was traveling with a guide dog, so I was a little concerned about taking breaks along the way with the dog because I knew there's no way my dog could go 15 hours without a bathroom break. So one of the more important things for me was getting that sorted out, where we're going to be making stops. And at first I thought they only stopped the train if somebody wanted to get on or get off, but we did find out that there were scheduled stops.  And they spoke to me about roughly when the dog was going to need a break and did that coincide with the scheduled stops and it all went really smoothly. I was so pleasantly surprised to find out that that they were terrifically accommodating. We got two bathroom breaks for the dog. And there was no rush. They gave me a heads up, maybe 10 minutes before the train was going to pull in and, they even came outside with me.

Now I had a support person with me. April came as my support person, so she would come out into the grassy areas with the dog so we could give him a break but train staff were actually outside sort of hanging around and watching to make sure everything was okay. And I never felt rushed -- that time is passing, you have to get back on the train now.

So, my biggest care about the train trip turned out to be nothing. They were so accommodating, coming through the train cars and checking with us from time to time.

With the air travel, I found the barriers to be in booking the trip, not necessarily taking the trip. Most people were very accommodating once we were on the journey, but the barriers I encountered especially with the small carriers is that they do not yet have to provide one person one fare. So with my support person, I think on PAL they offered a medical rate. So my support person traveled at a reduced rate, but it wasn't at no charge. The other airline I think that was Air Inuit. They did not even offer a medical rate. I believe that for myself and for my support person it was a full price ticket. Interestingly enough, for the guide dog, they did provide an extra seat, both of them, for the floor space and it was free of charge. So I found that kind of interesting. And then with the large carrier, now April and I flew Air Canada to Montreal where we met up with everybody else. Air Canada, when they found out that I wanted to travel with a guide dog and a support person, they told me that I could have one extra seat. So either one for the guide dog or one for the support person, but they couldn't allow me 2 seats at no charge. And they actually told me that that was in the ATPDR --the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations -- that those regulations actually stipulated that you only got one accommodation, which is not true. So when I argued that with them and asked to speak to a supervisor to discuss that, the agent disappeared and said she would check on it. When she came back she said, well, in this instance and just this once, they would grant me an exception and allow me one extra seat at no charge for the dog and another extra seat at no charge for my support person.

So at that point because I was getting what I wanted, I didn't pursue it, but I thought that was quite interesting that they tried to tell me I could only get one and not the other.

On the journey itself, I found that as Jason pointed out, it's communication that's usually the biggest issue. Because I was traveling with a support person, a lot of that was alleviated. However, I was pleasantly surprised that many people did speak directly to me. They didn't ignore me and try to talk to April without me. We had one instance where going through security and the security agent really didn't know how to speak to me. He used a lot of hand gestures, of course, that meant nothing. He would say something like come over here, which didn't mean a lot to me either, but eventually another person stepped in. And then we sort of realized that maybe this agent was new and perhaps didn't know how to. speak to or deal with somebody with a disability and once that second person stepped in who had a bit more experience things went quite a bit more smoothly.

Air Inuit, I found, were extremely helpful. And one thing I have to say about small carriers is I felt their attitude was very different than the bigger carriers. They were very happy to deal with me directly, to speak to me as a person, to have a discussion. Their attitude was more; what kind of assistance do you need? And then being even creative finding solutions how they can help me. It wasn't so much; this is our policy or this is the rule, this is what we can do for you. It was a case of how can we help you? What do you need from us? And I thought that was really refreshing. They treated me with respect. They treated me as a valued customer, somebody that they really wanted to see have a comfortable and pleasant journey and I don't always get that attitude from the larger carriers.

Jason: So I traveled with Janet and I was concerned about the stairs and the ability of seeing the sliding doors and the stairs. I thought they should put a wall or something up so that it was easier to identify where the stairs were or the ramp. That was one concern that I had when the train stopped for the pee break was the stairs on the train.

Janet:  On the train, okay. Again, as I had a support person with me, I felt pretty comfortable that April would assist me in finding doors and steps and things like that but I did find that the train staff, as well, were more than accommodating. In fact they almost fell over each other trying to offer assistance showing me where the opening was, where the stairs were, where the hand holds were, whether they were giving me a stool to step down on. So in that instance, I guess the communication was really good and I felt quite comfortable quite looked after. I found it adequate. I really don't think for me that anything else would have made it safer or easier to access.

On the planes, because I don't have a physical mobility disability, it is a sensory disability, I usually don't have a support person. I ask for an escort from the airline so somebody is usually guiding me to the ramp or to the stairs, and then once I'm there and I've identified where the railing is, I can usually make it up the ramp or the stairs without very much assistance.

For me it's the communication.  It's having somebody explain to me where we are, what's ahead of me, whether we're going up or down the stairs, whether it's a ramp.  Once I get to the top, is it a large step? Is there a gap to step over? Just communicating those things makes navigating much better for me.

Heather:  I'm just wondering from both Jason and Janet. Do you feel that their attentiveness was regular attentiveness or was it extra because you were with CTA? Or could you tell?

Janet: I don't know if I could answer that because I think in observing them reacting with other people, I think that's just the way they were. I think with the smaller carriers maybe you would interact a bit more with people. They value all customers. I get the feeling with the larger carriers, especially the airlines, that we are anonymous numbers. It's almost a conveyor belt or an assembly line process. And when a person with a disability shows up, we kind of throw a wrench in the works. Suddenly they have to stop and detour or take a breath and figure out how they're going to deal with us because we're different. We're different from the average passenger. I got the feeling with the smaller carriers they can actually take the time and deal with passengers as individuals, rather than you know the conveyor belt or the assembly line process. And maybe they are more comfortable in dealing with you one-on-one and finding out what your personal individual needs are. That’s just the feeling I got. Whether traveling with the CTA made a difference, maybe on the train.  We kind of got the feeling on the train that we were given special treatment. The train is Indigenous run. I got the feeling that it's family. Their clients are family. The employees are family. So it matters to them how people's experience is and being able to help. It was totally different feeling. I'm not sure I can describe it.

Jason: Agreed. But I guess the one thing is in the terminal. From where I was sitting they came up to me and asked me if I needed assistance and I said no I could navigate independently I didn't need them to guide me or to accompany me. They were respectful of that. They didn't try to be overly accommodating. So I don't think I could add to that.

Richard: From Janet's comment, Janet had a support person provided. There was a free seat or a reduced fare for a support person. Would the interpreter seat be at a reduced rate? It says communication support in the regulations.

Heather:  It doesn’t say anything about what the communication assistant has to be. It may be different for someone who has Alzheimer’s to someone who is dyslexic to someone with autism to someone who is blind or low vision. Communication is open to allow for the person to define what they require or would feel more comfortable with. Under the current regulations for large carriers, the 1person, 1fare that was established through a CCD lawsuit, an interpreter or intervenor would be considered a support person and qualify for a seat at no charge.

April:  Heather, perhaps you tell us about your trip?

Heather:  I did not have a support person. Being nearly blind and also using a wheelchair on and off for long distances I had 2 disabilities I was tending to. I've always said the journey starts wherever you start from, and grab your suitcase. So the travel journey for me is always fun with taxis and when I arrive at the terminal. I require what's called curb to check-in service at the airport. Now in the regulations, that is the responsibility of the airport or train or the interprovincial bus and Ferry terminal. In this case I was dealing with the Vancouver airport when leaving and returning. Once you get to the check-in counter, the carrier has the responsibility to ensure safe support to the gate and into your seat. Once at the other end, to luggage, then it's back to the airport or terminals responsibility to ensure safe travel back to the curb and a ride. One of the great flaws of the current Regulations and that has become one of the longest 100 yards of my life when I travel. When I was leaving on my trip, they were expecting us, because normally I can wait up to half an hour, or an hour sometimes at the curb, trying to get help to get in the airport in Vancouver. In this case, I phoned in the cab coming from the hotel to let them know I was coming, and it's through a very weird system at Vancouver Airport as there is no direct phone number. And you have to guess which series of prompts to push. I choose paging and that usually finds me a person to help me rather than a recorded message. However, you can wait a long time for someone to answer.  I was traveling with one of the CTA staff as we shared a cab together from the hotel and all of a sudden as the cab pulled up, there was the supervisor of the department with someone to help me into a wheelchair and take me to the check-in. In all my years of travel, I have never seen a supervisor. Normally it's just a mess getting through the phone system and the time they show up and I've got 2 pieces of luggage, they pile it on me in the wheelchair and I feel like I have inconvenienced them by having luggage.

The airport staff were great as they usually are , and between them were able to wheel me and deal with my suitcase and walker.  The supervisor, went off ahead and talked to the CTA staff about their process. I think Vancouver Airport accessibility support staff do have lots to feel good about in the way they are trained and their attitude of respect. Just have to get more of them and figure out that phone system by having a direct choice when needing curb to check-in. We were headed down to Air North check-in, which is owned by a group of people in the Yukon and a Tribal Council It was just amusing to me that I received faster service than I have ever had at Vancouver Airport because they knew CTA was coming. Air North was particularly good. In that I use a walker and use a wheelchair for distance so they took my walker and for the first time an airline actually wrapped it up in plastic. So that was something new and they said this is normal operating procedure when I asked them. They treated me like a person. Not like a piece of luggage, which is the usual feeling when I get when being transferred through the airport. They took their time with me. They asked me if I need to use the washroom or did I want a coffee from Starbucks. Air Canada doesn't do that. Neither does WestJet. They just get you to the gate and leave you. So I was starting to feel that northern hospitality service.

One thing I'll say about Air North is that they're very personable to everybody. A lot of the flight attendants know the people because they are workers that fly in and out. So they've known them for years. And they know them by name. It was just all around a pleasant trip north. I sat on my own. The one thing that I think Air North has over anybody else is they give you a warm cookie before you land. I mean, who does that? That’s a touch I've never had before. LOL I could not use the washrooms on board as they seemed even smaller and more difficult to get in and out of than the usual tiny ones on larger aircraft.

I understand because they are considered a small carrier, they don't have that extra seat space covered in the one person one fare for a support person or space for a guide or service dog, because again, they're not under these current ATPDR. Given their commitment to customer service they would probably be able to do that on the larger planes.

The airport itself in Whitehorse was a bit confusing. Although the airport is supposed to supply support to me, the airline did it right through. They took me off the plane in a wheelchair to luggage then the airport staff kept asking can they get your luggage? No, they can't. I wouldn't let them use the CTA staff to assist me. I asked them do it because I wanted to see how they did it, like you did Jason. But they would ask because we were together but not necessarily together. They kept asking them to help. And I keep saying, no, they're separate passengers. They're not my support people, even though they were willing to help. I was clear whose responsibility it was to assist me. The CTA staff did a lot of observation of me working through barriers and attitudes on my own, interacting with personal and taking a lot of pictures and notes of how the airport was or the staff was managing with me.

Meeting with the airport management and the carrier management went very well. In the Yukon, the Yukon Government owns all the airports so they treat expenditures as one of the Government responsibility centers, like schools. You have to use transportation regulation and health and safety regulation in order to move up the priority list for improvements. Regulation on accessible travel will force that to happen quicker for airports in the Yukon. The airline reps were very open to discussing regulations and where the issues may be and were open to discussing how they could better wok with groups of people with disabilities. They were already working with local organizations to be better informed and find solutions.

It was interesting to be with the CTA Chair and the CEAT staff as they were genuinely interested in what everyone we met with had to say. They were also very deliberate to invite me to speak and ask questions and I felt no restraints on me. Chair Pégeot has had a very interesting career, and is extremely well versed in regulation and standards. In the current work of developing small carrier regulations, she is laser focused on the results, not just about the bureaucracy around making the standards. The commitment through her questions in making the regulations work to drive change in support of accessible and inclusive travel. Was very evident. I found her approach very different in that she concentrates on listening and asking very intentional questions to get a greater understanding of the impact of what a regulation could do to assist or cause more unnecessary barriers and possible harm.

April: So what would you all like to see come out of this work that you did on these study tours?

Jason, what would you like to see come out of this work?

Jason: I did think of something and I was thinking in the future within the terminal at the airport if you purchase a ticket, they do identify that you are Deaf. And you know, it would be nice if the staff felt comfortable enough to ask. You know, if they communicate with me and know that I'm there but sometimes it can be confused by the way that we identify. Because some are ASL, some are LSQ, some people have lip reading, some people can voice for themselves, others use sign language like myself. They need to ask the questions or to introduce themselves so that they know what our needs are. And other Deaf people may want that accompaniment. I don't, but I do want to know if there's any announcements, if there's any delays or gate changes, I want to be told.

When it comes to another group in the United States, they had an experience. They were a group of Deaf people traveling. What happened is when they arrived at the gate there were 10 people that showed up with 10 wheelchairs. It was so embarrassing to us because it's not what we needed and then we drew a lot of attention because of that. That's a one anecdotal experience that I heard of. Also, you know, people may bring a wheelchair to take someone to a specific gate and that's not a service that I need. I'm able to walk on my own. But they should be aware of that, be sensitive to that.

April: Heather, what would you like to see come out of this work?

Heather:  Personally, I would like to see those of us who went on these trips, continue our work with the CTA on the small carrier regulation as we travelled and met with the entities that are not regulated yet, regarding accessibility transportation for people with disabilities. With all of our collective history and expertise, we can contribute so much.  One of the things that happened getting up and down a staircase onto a smaller plane to Dawson City and back, is there is only one handrail to hold on to while climbing in and out of that particular model of plane. On the other side there were three people. They were at different heights and I put my hand on their heads and shoulders to have balance to get up the stairs. It was sort of comical. LOL

I'm a little concerned that we could overregulate and take away that kind of human individual interaction and problem solving of just working with you to figure out how to help you in the way it works for you. Many staff I spoke to felt they did not have the knowledge about disability and how to support a person and like most carriers and airports and terminals tend to think things out based on expediency and making a person wait. Some of the equipment they have is old, like no leg rests on the wheelchairs, no depth perception awareness so they run you into things. Although several staff mentioned they had taken training on working with people with wheelchairs, which showed in the way they were aware of what to do, but not with people with a range of disabilities. I was also shown equipment that no one knew how to work to transfer people up airplane stairs and had been pilfered for parts for who knows what. So I think regulation will very much shift the understanding and expectation and broaden the need and understanding of good accessibility, inclusion  and customer service. They need the proper equipment available and trained staff to use it so we will not be an afterthought.  My concern is that in the move to follow regulations and pay for implementation of training and equipment that may cause some of the services now provided to very small communities, to be reduced to pay for the work to become more accessible. I say more because the reality is the small planes and gravel airstrips with no actual terminals may not be able to meet some of them. So it will be a very intensive process to ensure the outcome of more accessibility, does not impact existing services and that people have the equipment and training to work with us. The challenge is to understand the realities of small commercial planes and terminals and have accessible travel. For some airplanes may not be able to become accessible or inclusive. The common sense that people have from small communities and that community of family may not be able to provide full accessibility.  So that's some of the lessons I come away with. I also am concerned that although the staff in all areas showed interest, they will need to have good training and I would like that in part to come from us. That's what I would like to see. I agree with Jason on that. Not just say training but work with us to develop good training models and process.

I think one of the biggest problems with the regulations as they sit now is that they say there needs to be training but it doesn't say it has to be by us   in the training, doing the training or doing portions of the training.

Air Canada hired a consulting firm because they have 40,000 employees worldwide to do the training through videos. So they got a consulting firm that had nothing to do with disability to do online training so that any new employee taps into online does their training on disability and that's it. Nobody pushes a wheelchair; no one sits in a wheelchair being pushed and feels what it's like to almost be dumped out. Nobody works with any of  the disability community who has expertise, until they see us as a customer and then it's failed already because a lot of them, as you point out, are not going to ask us what would assist us. As an individual person who's blind, what I would need would maybe very different than Janet. That would be different with Jason and with somebody else. So it's really individualizing to the best they can; asking the questions --You have identified as being blind is there anything I can do to assist you? And that'll be how they have to individualize the support they give. Thank you

April: Janet, what would you like to see come out of this work?

Janet: Interesting.  Heather talked about worrying about over overregulating.  My thoughts were that I would like to see this leading to maybe some funding opportunities because when we were talking to the representative of PAL and the train director I got the impression that they make do with very few resources. And they do the best they can. In the case of PAL, they said well sometimes borrow equipment from another airline from the airport if they've got a person with the disability that needs some assistance and sometimes that equipment is available but sometimes it isn't. And you know the fellow from the train said they get very few people in wheelchairs traveling on the train, but when they do; if somebody needs to be hoisted on board they don't have to look for assistance. There are always plenty of volunteers who just are there and will get that person on board no matter what they have to do. They use creative solutions. And I was thinking that that's great. But I'd like to see them avail themselves of some funding so that perhaps they don't have to always use such creative solutions and maybe they don't have to borrow equipment. I don't want to see them get away from that personal touch. But I just think if this work can lead to some assistance for them to make things a little easier, that would be a good thing.

The other thing that that really hit me was in talking to the folks we were traveling with from CTA, they said many times that this is the first time they've traveled with a person with a disability and for them to see firsthand how it's done, what we deal with, the questions that come up, the unexpected little twists and turns and things that have to be dealt with was quite enlightening for them and they really appreciated the opportunity to do that.  So whereas we are benefiting from traveling with the small carriers and seeing firsthand how it's done, what the barriers can be, how solutions are arrived at, I think it was just as beneficial for the folks at CTA to see firsthand what happens and because now when we all go back to these meetings we've got a much better idea of truly what we're dealing with. This isn't just ideas anymore. This is personal experience and that's going to help. That is really going to take us a long way. Thanks.

So the final comment will go to Richard.

Richard:  First I want to say thank you to the interpreter. Great job. Yes. The other thing I wanted to follow up on is to be involved going forward. I think you're right, Heather. You said that we should be involved in the training aspects and they should include people with disabilities.  On the ticket having it listed that you're Deaf is a good thing, but it's also a medical model of disability. So when you, see the word Deaf, you know, you imagine they need a communication support person or someone who is blind needs a guide dog, but perhaps the ticket could add more details rather than just disabled. Maybe it should include some kind of a note around the accommodation needs so it starts with the ticketing agent. When I purchase my ticket, then I can say I'm Deaf. They can make a note of that but also I have a communication support person and that could be listed on the ticket or the Video Relay Service number.

When somebody is Deaf-Blind, they will have different needs, someone who has a visual impairment or who uses a mobility aid. Today, they can do that for food preferences, dietary restrictions, but they can't do it for accommodations. I think they should be able to do that. Anyway, I just wanted to add that. Thank you very much.

Heather: We would like to thank Chair France Pégeot, and the staff at CEAT, for working from a principle of inclusion and travelling with us. As well we thank the staff at the airports, stations, airlines and train who were very open, supportive and wanted also good accessible travel for all people. The work ahead will be difficult and will require a deep understanding of the realities of disabled and Deaf people and how we live and move and the realities of how buildings, airplanes and trains are designed.

Collectively we are ready for the work ahead.