When it come to access issues, our neighbors to the north experience some of the same air travel woes that we in the US also endure. Delays getting gate-checked wheelchairs, damaged equipment and uncomfortable aisle chairs are pretty much par for the course on both sides of the border. Of course we try to advocate for resolutions to these nagging problems, and sometimes the airlines get fined and in the end we get satisfaction and a smoother air travel experience.
Last week the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) was trying to get that satisfaction as the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) heard complaints against Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, and Westjet. The subject in question was attendant airfares; and when it?s all said and done the CTA must decide if charging disabled passengers for their attendant?s airfare creates an undue obstacle.
Part of the argument in this case stems from the fact the ?one person, one fare? principle is in force on Canadian buses, trains and ferries, and as CCD counsel points out, the Canadian airline industry is the only federally regulated provider that requires the disabled to pay two fares. But wait, if two passengers travel, shouldn?t they pay for two tickets? Not according to Canadian disability rights advocates who compare attendants to mobility aids or service animals, and contend that disabled passengers should not be charged a second fare for them.
Time will tell how this will all play out. I don?t have a crystal ball, so I expect anything is possible.
But I?m thinking that the logistics of enforcing something like this could be very cumbersome. After all, how do you determine if somebody needs an attendant to travel? Who is disabled enough? Some folks think that it should be quads, paras who have been injured less than a year and blind people. But wait, I know quads who have incomplete injuries and can walk; and I don?t quite buy the fact that after a year all paras can magically survive with out attendant assistance. And the blind people I know are some of the most independent folks around.
Who is going to create the criteria? Let?s face it, although many people truly need attendants, I can forsee a huge potential for abuse here. I mean, look at the masses of able-bodied folks that get blue parking placards. And no I?m not talking about people with invisible disabilities, but about folks that ask their doctor for one just so they can have a closer parking spot. And the doctor signs off on it. It?s seen as a ?perk? in some circles; just as booking the accessible cabin on a cruise ship is seen as a bonus. No, it?s not right, but people do it.
Can you imagine what would happen if the criteria for the ?one person, one fare? system wasn?t adequately defined. Everyone would be traveling with an attendant!
Truly I wish the CCD luck on this, but to be honest I?m glad I?m not on the committee deciding the rules. It will however be interesting to see how this turns out, and if in turn US advocates push for the same rights.