VIA Rail to Upgrade Access in 2018

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. Continue reading

Air India Boots Power Wheelchair-User

airplane_landing_199029Although travelers in the US are used to the protections that the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) affords them in this country (and on flights to and from the US), that’s not how it works on foreign soil. In fact, I routinely get reports of wheelchair-users who were unceremoniously denied boarding at airports throughout Asia. Such is the case of Kaushik Majumdar, who recently tried to board an Air India flight from Bengaluru to Kolkata.

Notice, I said “tried”.

According to reports of the incident Majumdar was told at check-in that he would have to remove the dry-cell battery from his power wheelchair and transfer to a manual wheelchair at the gate. After he did this, he was also informed that he would have to disconnect all of the wires that ran to the battery case. Being leery about his ability to properly reconnect the wires, and concerned about possible damage to his wheelchair, he refused. And then Air India refused to accept him as a passenger.

Should this have happened? Well no it shouldn’t have, but it did. And although in the US, the ACAA prohibits the removal of non-spillable batteries that are appropriately marked and installed, that’s not the way it works with Air India.

So this is just a little heads up if you happen to have India on your bucket list. Tread lightly with Air India, as they don’t appear to be “power-wheelchair friendly”. And no matter where you travel, check with the airline to see what their policies are regarding the stowage of assistive devices before you buy your ticket. A little advance research could possible save you a whole lot of heartache – not to mention a ruined trip. In this case, forewarned is definitely forearmed!

All Airline Access is NOT Equal

cockpit_plane_airplane_213770I get a lot of feedback on airlines – some of it good, and some of it not so good. For the most part my advice to folks is to learn the law – in this case the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) – and then complain to the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) if things don’t go according to the regs. And that works fine if you are flying on a US carrier, or to or from the US on a foreign carrier. That’s as far as the jurisdiction of the ACAA extends. Period. Continue reading

Should We Celebrate the ADA Anniversary?

barrier-418450_640Recently I’ve seen a lot of posts and comments from younger people who think we shouldn’t celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), quite simply because it does not go far enough. They claim that without any real enforcement, public entities are not held to the standards laid out by the US Access Board. Continue reading

Thompson Holidays Drops the Ball on Accessibility

Matt Anderson had every reason to believe his Cape Verde vacation would be a relaxing retreat for him and his partner Shelly Grainger. After all, Anderson booked a wheelchair-accessible room through Thompson Holidays. The British travel operator was quick to take Anderson’s £2,800, but when the couple arrived in Africa they were informed that the accessible room was only “requested” and not “reserved” for him. Continue reading

UK Supreme Court Weighs in on Buggy vs. Wheelchair Issue

The UK Supreme Court ruled last month on a pivotal disability rights issue regarding the use of allocated wheelchair spaces on buses. The case stemmed from a 2012 incident in Leeds, where wheelchair-user Doug Paulley tried to board a FirstGroup bus, but a mother with a stroller who was occupying the wheelchair space refused to move. In spite of the signage that clearly states that the seats are reserved for disabled passengers, the driver would only request — not require — that she move. Ultimately Mr. Paulley was left at the curb. Continue reading

French Court Fines easyJet Again

Once again France has stepped in to remedy access problems caused by British budget air carrier easyJet. In response to a criminal complaint filed by Joseph Etcheveste, last month a French court fined the air carrier €60,000 for their failure to allow the plaintiff to board his 2010 flight from Biarritz. Mr. Etcheveste is a wheelchair-user who was traveling unaccompanied, and according to easyJet, that was a “security problem”. Continue reading

VIA Rail to Upgrade Access in 2018

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 and Toronto to 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 there were two passengers with assistive devices, 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 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.