Federal Accessible Transportation Regulation

The federal Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR) was registered under the federal Accessible Canada Act (ACA) on June 25, 2019. Most provisions of the ATPDR will come into force on June 25, 2020, while other more complex requirements (i.e., self-serve kiosks) will be phased in over three years (June 25, 2020, June 25, 2021 and June 25, 2022). This is the only accessibility standard currently registered under the ACA.

Note: this article contains paraphrase from federal government documents and Canadian Transportation Agency, see sources below.

What is the ATPDR?

The ATPDR consolidates the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) various accessibility instruments, which consist of six voluntary codes and two regulations, to create a single, robust, legally binding set of accessible transportation regulations.

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator that has, with respect to all matters necessary for the exercise of its jurisdiction, all the powers of a superior court. The CTA has three core mandates:

  1. helping to keep the national transportation system running efficiently and smoothly;
  2. protecting the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to accessible transportation services; and
  3. providing consumer protection for air passengers.

To help advance these mandates, the CTA makes and enforces ground rules that establish the rights and responsibilities of transportation service providers and users and level the playing field among competitors, resolves disputes using a range of tools from facilitation and mediation to arbitration and adjudication, and ensures that transportation providers and users are aware of their rights and responsibilities and how the CTA can help them.

Application of the ATPDR and exceptions

The ATPDR applies to the following, with some exceptions:

  • Air: Large airlines operating within Canada, from Canada to a destination in a foreign country, or from a destination in a foreign country to Canada. A large airline is one that transported a worldwide total of at least 1 million passengers in each of the two preceding calendar years.
  • Rail: VIA Rail and Amtrak operations in Canada.
  • Ferries: Ferries weighing at least 1,000 gross tonnes that operate across the national, provincial, or territorial borders and offer on-board services for passengers.
  • Buses: Greyhound and Mega Bus operations in Canada.
  • Terminals: Airports located in a national, provincial, or territorial capital, or that have served more than 200,000 passengers during each of the preceding two calendar years; Canadian transportation terminals used by the above rail, ferry and bus carriers; and Canadian ports used by cruise ships.

In addition, certain requirements related to security screening and border clearance, training and communication apply to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA).

While the ATPDR applies broadly to all modes of transport, there are some exceptions:

  • The service requirements apply to both Canadian and international carriers, but communications, training and technical requirements apply to Canadian carriers only;
  • The technical requirements for Canadian airlines apply only to aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats;
  • Only the technical requirements apply to ports that serve cruise ships (given that services to persons with disabilities are provided by cruise ship personnel); and
  • The One Person, One Fare requirement only applies to domestic travel.

Requirements under the ATPDR

The ATPDR is an important step in establishing comprehensive and binding accessibility requirements across all modes of transportation.

1. Meet the communication needs of travellers with disabilities

The ATPDR requires Canadian transportation service providers to ensure the following are accessible to persons with disabilities:

  • key announcements and other communications to inform the public (these would have to be provided in accessible formats);
  • automated self-service kiosks, which must comply with Canadian Standards Association (CSA) specifications;
  • telecommunications systems for reservations and information; and
  • websites and applications.

The regulations also require carriers to:

  • clarify the size and weight of mobility aids that their fleets can carry in cargo holds and baggage compartments; and
  • retain information or documents pertaining to the needs of persons with disabilities upon request for a period of at least three years, so that they do not have to repeatedly provide the same information when they travel.

Transportation terminals have to follow the CSA specifications for any kiosks they own or operate. In addition, terminals need to prominently post information about the terminal’s accessibility, including any accessible intra-terminal or ground transportation.

Carriers and terminal operators must publish a notice, including on their website, that they are subject to the ATPDR and the provisions that apply to them, in addition to the services that they offer to persons with disabilities and any related conditions.

2. Train transportation workers to provide assistance to travellers with disabilities

The ATPDR builds on the existing Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations, which will continue to apply to the smaller carriers and terminals until these are covered by the second-stage regulatory package. Like the existing training regulations, the ATPDR requires carriers and terminals to make sure their employees and contractors who provide transportation-related services to persons with disabilities are properly trained, however, the ATPDR contains several additional provisions that strengthen training requirements. In particular:

  • The regulations maintain an existing requirement for employees and contractors to complete required training within 60 days of starting their duties, but specify that refresher training must be provided at least once every three years;
  • Untrained personnel have to be supervised by trained personnel until they receive training;
  • Transportation service providers have to give a description of their training program to the CTA and any person upon request (unless the information is confidential or otherwise sensitive);
  • Training must cover key human rights principles regarding dignity, equal opportunities, barrier-free access and autonomy;
  • New training requirements will apply to employees or contractors who assist passengers with onboard entertainment systems and automated self-service kiosks; and
  • The regulations require transportation service providers to consult with persons with disabilities when developing training programs and the principal teaching methods.

3. Comply with technical requirements regarding aircraft, trains, ferries, buses and terminals

The ATPDR’s extensive technical requirements are with respect to how certain organizations such as air carriers, rail carriers, marine carriers, bus carriers and terminal operators must comply with the Regulation.

The ATPDR requires carriers to follow a number of key CSA specifications for the accessible design of their fleets and equipment (specifically, the technical requirements contained in the CSA standard entitled “Accessible Design for the Built Environment” (CAN/CSA-B651-18)). These specifications cover such elements as washrooms, elevators, doors and operating controls. There will also be new technical requirements that apply to the storage and transportation of mobility aids.

The regulations also add technical requirements with respect to:

  • transfer seats, mobility aid spaces and mobility aid storage space, lifts and ramps, window emergency exits and accessible washrooms;
  • the availability of passenger safety information in accessible formats (i.e., in large print and Braille, or using an electronic device) and onboard wheelchairs on trains;
  • tactile row markers, armrests and call buttons; and
  • accessible onboard entertainment systems.

Many of these provisions apply to future purchases or modifications. They do not require carriers to retrofit existing fleets or equipment. For the air sector, technical requirements would apply to aircraft with at least 30 seats.

In addition, the regulations include provisions for terminals, including the accessibility services terminals must provide and various technical requirements.

Under the regulations, a terminal that has entered into an agreement for ground transportation services must ensure that those services are accessible. In addition, terminal operators will be subject to a new requirement to provide curbside assistance. This means terminal operators must help passengers with disabilities get into and out of terminals by doing the following:

  • Helping a passenger who is at the terminal for boarding get from the curbside zone outside to the check-in area inside;
  • Helping a passenger who has de-boarded at the terminal get from the general public area inside to the curbside zone outside; and
  • Helping with wheelchairs, baggage and navigating the terminal as part of this curbside assistance.

If the passenger’s carrier is already providing curbside assistance, then the terminal operator is no longer required to do so.

The ATPDR includes technical requirements for terminals similar to those for carriers described above, including the requirement to follow CSA specifications for accessible design. (These technical requirements are contained in the CSA standard entitled “Accessible Design for the Built Environment” (CAN/CSA-B651-18)). In addition, the regulations:

  • include provisions about the terminal-provided wheelchairs and seating that should be available;
  • require terminal operators to repair technical problems that limit accessibility as soon as possible, and take measures to provide a substantially equivalent or greater level of accessibility while the repairs are being done;
  • ensure terminals have relief areas for service dogs, which includes, if the terminal has a secure area, relief areas both outside the terminal and directly accessible from the secure side of the terminal which does not require a person to exit and re-enter the secure area.

The requirement to comply with the CSA standard only applies to the future acquisition or lease of a terminal and to renovations to an existing one. Terminal operators are not required to retrofit existing buildings or equipment used in them.

4. Provide accessible services

The ATPDR prescribes a wide range of services, such as help with check in for departures and baggage retrieval for arrivals, and limits requirements for passengers to provide advance notice in order to receive these services. The regulations also make it clear that service providers are not permitted to charge passengers for these accessibility services.

The ATPDR builds on service provisions in the Air Transportation Regulations and codes of practice, which will continue to apply to the smaller carriers and terminals until these organizations are covered by the second-stage regulatory package. The ATPDR contains additional service requirements covering a broad range of issues, including in the following areas.

Service dogs: The regulations define “service dog” as “a dog that has been individually trained by an organization or person specializing in service dog training to perform a task to assist a person with a disability with a need related to their disability.”

As they do now, carriers would have to accept service dogs for carriage. However, in order to safeguard the right of persons with disabilities to travel with service dogs, the ATPDR permits carriers to require proof of specialized training in order to reduce the health and safety risk that untrained dogs accompanying travellers who do not have the same disability-related needs could pose to other passengers.

Allergies: Carriers will have to establish a “buffer zone” upon request of a person who has a disability as a result of a severe allergy. This will help the person avoid, or limit their risk of exposure. The regulations define “severe allergy” as an allergy which can cause a person to experience significant physical distress if directly exposed to the allergen.

One person, one fare: In situations where a person with a disability requires more than one passenger seat for travel within Canada due to disability-related needsCfor example, because he or she travels with a support person or a service dogCcarriers will have to provide additional, adjacent passenger seating at no extra cost.

5. Make border and security screening accessible

The ATPDR requires the Canadian border and transportation security organizations to have accessibility measures in place for people going through airport security and entering Canada by means of the national transportation system.

The organizations are required to:

  • provide assistance to persons with disabilities, when requested;
  • where applicable, help persons with disabilities complete their declaration card, or accept a verbal declaration instead; screen a person and their disability aid at the same time, or promptly return the disability aid if it requires separate screening;
  • provide instructions in writing or, if possible, in American Sign Language or Langue des signes Québécois, where requested; and
  • ensure any signs they produce and display are accessible.

In addition, the organizations will be required to help persons with disabilities who, for disability-related reasons, have difficulty waiting in line by directing them, and any support person travelling with them, to an alternate line designed to move them more quickly through the process.


The CTA will be responsible for enforcing the ATPDR, including through administrative monetary penalties of up to $250,000.

The CTA can also, in resolving a complaint, award a person compensation if they experienced physical or psychological pain and suffering because a transportation service provider has contravened the regulations.


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