Backgrounder – Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations

Table of contents


On July 10, 2019, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) published the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR) in Part II of the Canada Gazette. The CTA created these regulations pursuant to the Canada Transportation Act. The ATPDR reflect input from the CTA's Accessibility Advisory Committee, the transportation industry, disability rights organizations, and other interested parties, provided during extensive consultations held from 2016 to 2018 and as part of a 30-day public comment period following the publication of proposed accessible transportation regulations in Part I of the Canada Gazette on March 9, 2019.


One of the CTA's core mandates is to protect the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to accessible transportation services. The ATPDR help do this by providing a set of clear, consistent accessibility requirements for all types of federally-regulated transportation.

These comprehensive new regulations will replace two regulations and six voluntary codes of practice. The codes of practice, in particular, are outdated and are not legally binding on transportation service providers. The new regulations, in contrast, are enforceable. Transportation service providers that do not meet the accessibility requirements set out in the regulations will face clear consequences, including Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPS).

This is an important change. Enforceable requirements reinforce respect for the rights of persons with disabilities while creating more predictability and a level playing field for transportation service providers.

This document explains which transportation service providers have to follow the ATPDR. It also explains what obligations those service providers have, and how we will enforce their obligations, in the following areas:

  • communications; 
  • training;
  • services;
  • fleets and equipment (technical requirements only);
  • terminals; and
  • security screening and border clearance.

Affected Transportation Service Providers

The ATPDR apply to the following, with some exceptions: 

largeFootnote 1 airlines operating within Canada, from Canada to a destination in a foreign country, or from a destination in a foreign country to Canada;
VIA Rail and Amtrak operations in Canada;
ferries weighing at least 1,000 gross tonnes that operate across the national, provincial, or territorial borders and offer on-board services for passengers;
Greyhound and Mega Bus operations in Canada; and
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 apply 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.

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

In fall 2019, the CTA will launch consultations on a second-stage regulatory package to scope in smaller carriers and terminals that have unique operating circumstances – for example, those that mainly serve Canada's North – and to consider whether any accessibility-related matters not covered in the ATPDR should be regulated.

In the meantime, persons with disabilities may continue to bring complaints to the CTA regarding the accessibility of services provided by small carriers and terminals and the fleets, facilities and equipment that they use. The CTA can resolve such complaints through facilitation, mediation, or formal adjudication (where we exercise the powers of a court).



The regulations require 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
  • web sites 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 a disability 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.



The ATPDR build 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 require 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 contain 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 on-board 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.

Carrier Service Requirements


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

The ATPDR build 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 contain 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 permit 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.


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 needs – for example, because they travel with a support person or a service dog – carriers will have to provide additional, adjacent passenger seating at no extra cost.

Carrier Technical Requirements


The ATPDR require carriers to follow a number of key CSA specifications for the accessible design of their fleets and equipment.Footnote 2 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 on-board wheelchairs on trains;
  • tactile row markers, armrests, and call buttons; and
  • accessible on-board 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.



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

Terminal services

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.   

Terminal technical requirements

The ATPDR include technical requirements for terminals similar to those for carriers described above, including the requirement to follow CSA specifications for accessible design.Footnote 3 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.

Requirements for the Canada Border Services Agency and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority


The ATPDR require 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.

Coming into force

The majority of the requirements will come into force on June 25, 2020. More complex technical requirements, such as those relating to self-serve kiosks will be phased in over three years to ensure that they can be smoothly implemented.

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