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TRAVELLING WITH DIGNITY

Date: 
Monday, May 1, 2006

A BRIEF CONCERNING THE CANADIAN AIR TRANSPORT SECURITY AUTHORITY (CATSA) ACT REVIEW

Submitted by:

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour l'Égalité des Personnes Aveugles du Canada
6-1638 Pandosy Street
Kelowna, BC
V1Y 1P8
1800-561-4774

info@blindcanadians.ca

INTRODUCTION

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour l'Égalité des Personnes Aveugles du Canada (AEBC) is pleased to offer the following comments with respect to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) Act Review.

Founded in 1992, the AEBC is a national not-for-profit consumer organization of Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted, along with sighted friends. We have joined together to increase awareness of rights and responsibilities so blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted individuals can have equal access to the benefits and opportunities of society. We are a human rights organization, whose work focuses primarily on public awareness and advocacy on a wide range of blindness issues, including the right to travel with dignity and independence throughout Canada and the world.

As consumers, we know first hand what we need, what barriers are hindering our everyday enjoyment of life and how best to remove these barriers.

TRAVELLING WITH DIGNITY

A growing number of Canadians with disabilities are travelling by air. This means that CATSA personnel will see more people with disabilities, including those who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted, come through their checkpoints as the years go by. We may be accompanied by trained guide dogs or we may be carrying white canes or other technical aids. It is imperative that all travellers be treated with respect and dignity.

CONSISTENT TREATMENT

Consistent treatment is important for all travelers. Consistency means that, should a further personal screening be required, the procedure is clearly outlined in advance so that a person who is blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted will know what is about to happen. Consistency also means that signage in the screening area should be clearly visible, especially for persons with low vision, and that there should be audible announcements of important information, so that expectations are clearly outlined, and everyone receives the same message.

TRAINING

Regular and ongoing training is the key to success in any organization, especially in those organizations whose staff interact regularly with the public. A Disability Awareness component must be included in any such training program to ensure that persons with disabilities receive consistent and appropriate treatment.

Persons who live with disabilities on a daily basis are the experts on disability, and therefore are best equipped to deliver this training component for CATSA and all other organizations.

Many consumer members of the former Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACAT), dissolved in June of 2005, made several requests to critique and/or assist in updating CATSA’s current Disability Awareness module. ACAT consumer members were advised that access was denied due to issues of security.

Nevertheless, at the ACAT meeting November 19, 2004, a CATSA representative indicated that an outside contractor was hired to assist in the development of a training program. Why was this employment opportunity not tendered to members of the disabled community?

Neither ACAT nor AEBC can see any relationship between legitimate security issues and our desire to develop and deliver disability awareness and sensitivity training to CATSA staff. This training is not a security issue but rather an issue of human dignity and respect.

The AEBC strongly recommends that CATSA establish its own roster of persons with disabilities who can offer appropriate disability awareness training. This would answer any real security issues and, at the same time provide CATSA with a roster of competent trainers. The AEBC would be happy to assist in the development of such a roster.

CONSULTATION

Until it was disbanded by the Minister, the ACAT provided a forum for consultation and discussion of transportation issues between industry and disability organizations, including consumer groups such as AEBC. We regret the dissolution of this very useful forum, and believe CATSA should establish its own mechanism for ongoing consultation with the disability community. This must include representatives chosen by consumer organizations such as AEBC.

CONCLUSION

In our submission, we focussed on changes to processes, including increased involvement of consumer organizations. The AEBC looks forward to working with CATSA to improve customer service for travellers who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted.

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