Tuesday, August 9, 2016

RE: Wheelchairs Aren't Luggage

Dear Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation

I am writing you today because of an unacceptable accessibility deficit in Canadian air travel regulations. I am a longstanding friend with Tim Rose, who recently was interviewed as part of several Toronto news features for his hardships trying to book an Air Canada flight direct from Toronto to Cleveland, Ohio for business purposes. Despite my personal connection to the story, accessibility issues in air travel are limited to neither Tim nor Air Canada.


The unnamed and unshamed problem is that structural ableism goes deplorably unchallenged by Canadian air travel policy. The speed of technological advancement is constantly redefining what reasonable accommodation for (dis)abled people means in practice, and transportation authorities have a duty to reflect the most modern capabilities of offering identical services wherever possible and equitable services where not.

Air Canada is not accommodating Tim Rose by offering to substitute the plane assigned to the Toronto-Cleveland route for a model that would meet his travel requirements, because to do so in the absence of a requirement would result in lost profit. I see no ethical argument that a policy of plane substitution isn't the best practice to achieve accessibility, but there is inaction because status quo air travel policy justifies discrimination by design as profitable.


As Minister of Transportation, you have the authority to craft air travel policy in which equity is a consideration throughout decision making, not an after thought that cracks under the pressure of profit motive. I implore you to harmonize Canadian human rights laws with common sense air travel policy and impose a requirement that all new aircraft purchases meet diligent accessibility standards. Further, Canadians deserve an expedient timeline to transition air fleets to capacities where plane substitution for wheelchair users is offered as a reasonable accommodation.

The end goal of accessible air travel policy is a fully accessible fleet. A reasonable timeline to achieve substitution-capable and then fully accessible fleets is unclear. I do not claim expertise in aircraft engineering or airline management, but I hope that you mindfully weigh input from industry leaders against the discrimination by design that continues for tens of thousands of Canadians, like my friend Tim, who just want to travel for business and pleasure like their ambulatory peers.



Sincerely,

A sexy bunch of Carleton University Alumni at Tim & Natalie's wedding.

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