Canada’s national rail provider – VIA Rail recently announced that it plans to add more wheelchair tie-downs to their rail cars in 2018. And although this is great news to disability advocates, this access upgrade didn’t come without a battle. A battle that began back in 2016, when Marie Murphy and Martin Anderson traveled from Windsor to Toronto on VIA Rail.
Both Murphy and Anderson have cerebral palsy and use mobility scooters. Under VIA Rail’s policy at that time, since each rail car only had one tie-down, if two passengers with assistive devices were in a car, then one passenger had to transfer to a seat and have his assistive device stowed in the luggage car. That’s exactly what Anderson did, but because VIA Rail employees did not disassemble it, it sustained damage. So the pair filed a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).
They argued that the wheelchair tie-down area is the only risk-free place to transport scooters; and the lack of multiple tie-downs essentially prevents couples from traveling together. They also held that even though the Rail Code only requires one tie-down per car, this minimum standard may not always suffice, and that adding another tie-down would be a reasonable accommodation.
The CTA found in their favor, and ordered VIA Rail to provide multiple tie-downs. That was back in February 2017.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of things. VIA Rail protested the ruling, and held that the installation of additional tie-downs would pose an undue financial hardship on them.
The CTA ruled that additional tie-down areas are a reasonable and financially viable accommodation, especially since VIA Rail’s trains in Western Canada often have three-or four tie-downs.
Ultimately VIA Rail announced in December 2017 that it would comply with the CTA ruling and install multiple tie-downs in all of their rail cars. “Via Rail is committed to providing sustainable, reliable and accessible intercity travel for all Canadians,” company president Yves Desjardins-Siciliano said in a statement. “Thanks to our revised policy, more people with mobility restrictions will be able to travel together.”
This new policy went into effect on January 3, 2018.