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Compliance Report: Vancouver International Airport


The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) is responsible for ensuring that undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities are removed from air and federal rail, ferry and bus services and facilities. It seeks to remove these obstacles by:

  • administering regulations and codes of practice;
  • educating the transportation industry and the community of persons with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities; and
  • ruling on accessibility-related disputes and by ordering corrective measures as required.

The Agency ensures compliance with its regulations and codes of practice through periodic monitoring exercises.

The Agency has adopted a risk-based approach for monitoring compliance and works closely with industry and other parties to assist them in areas where compliance has not been achieved.

As part of its regular monitoring, the Agency assessed the compliance level of the Vancouver International Airport (Vancouver Airport), in respect of its international and domestic passenger terminals. This report describes the results of this monitoring.

What was assessed

The Agency assessed the Vancouver Airport's compliance with key provisions from the Code of Practice: Passenger Terminal Accessibility (Terminal Code), the Code of Practice: Removing Communication Barriers for Travellers with Disabilities (Communication Code), as well as provisions in the Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations (PTR), that pertain to:

  • accessibility features of the Vancouver Airport facilities;
  • administrative services (e.g., how information on available services is provided at the airport);
  • accessibility awareness training of staff and any contracted personnel who interact with persons with disabilities.

How the monitoring was done

Agency staff conducted a site inspection to assess the Vancouver Airport's compliance with the above-noted codes of practice. Agency staff also met with airport personnel to review the Airport's compliance with the requirements of the PTR, specifically to determine that the airport has available for inspection by the Agency and the general public a copy of its current training program prepared in the form set out in schedule 11 of the PTR and containing the information required therein, that employees and contractors are given training, and that this training is provided within prescribed time limits.

Findings of the monitoring exercise

The results of the monitoring exercise are as follows:

In terms of the exterior features of the Vancouver Airport, there is signage indicating accessible parking in the parking lot located near the terminal. Designated curbside drop-off locations, identified by the international symbol of access (pictogram of person in a wheelchair), are located in the departures level, and pick-up locations are located in the arrivals level. Vehicles displaying a disability parking permit can park in identified locations at the departures and arrivals level’s curb for up to 15 minutes at no charge. There are commissionaires stationed at the curbside to provide additional assistance, if required.

Accessible ground transportation, such as accessible taxis, can be requested at one of the Customer Care counters located close to main entrances and exits. In addition, commissionaires, stationed outside the arrivals terminals, can also arrange for accessible ground transportation at all times.

The terminal entrances on the arrivals level are equipped with large automated sliding doors which facilitate access for persons with disabilities. The Vancouver Airport incorporates several wayfinding features, designed in consultation with persons with disabilities, to assist persons with low vision, including contrasted graphics, bright lighting, and changes in floor surfaces from tile to carpeting, for example, when transitioning between the baggage retrieval area and the exit corridor. Clear accessible paths of travel inside the airport enhance navigation by persons with disabilities, including the use of low-pile carpets which facilitate movement for a person using a wheeled mobility aid.

For passengers with mobility difficulties or who may have difficulty walking long distances, wheelchairs are available throughout the airport and designated seating is available along pathways and in areas where there can be long waiting periods, such as check-in and baggage retrieval areas.  Air carriers provide electric carts to transport passengers who need assistance both within the international and domestic terminals. Additionally, the Vancouver Airport has available its own electric carts, should there be a situation where the carrier does not have a sufficient number of carts to accommodate all requests.

Signage throughout the Airport is well-placed and easily visible. Electronic signage, such as arrival and departure monitors, are installed at a height where they are easily visible to a person in a wheelchair. Additionally, electronic signage is positioned to be glare-free, with good color contrast, in order to be accessible to persons with reduced vision.

Telephones and information counters are available near the Airport's entrances for passengers to obtain information or request assistance.

Teletype (TTY) compatible phones are available on all levels of both the domestic and international terminals. Signage on public telephone banks indicates the location of TTY phones.

Vancouver Airport has made substantive efforts to ensure that its washrooms are accessible to all, such as providing strategically located emergency call buttons in all universal washrooms, and adult dimension change tables in many of them with plans to upgrade these to mounted tables with hoists.

However, Agency staff were concerned that the washrooms do not have the international symbol of access to indicate that they are accessible. Agency staff pointed out that the Terminal Code sets out the expectation, as contained in the Canadian Standards Association's Accessible Design for the Built Environment (CSA B651), that universal washrooms are identified by a sign that shows a male and female pictogram and the international symbol of access. Furthermore, having no signage may be a source of confusion and frustration for international travellers who are accustomed to seeing signs to indicate whether a facility is accessible.  

The Vancouver Airport clarified that its design guidelines and signage for the washrooms were focused on universal facilities, i.e., to support the needs of all travellers, and be inclusive and accessible for all, such that signage was not considered necessary. However, the Airport responded to the Agency staff's concerns by committing to creating new, tactile signage that includes the international symbol of access and a gender-neutral pictogram for all universal washrooms by 2019.

Agency staff noted that some of the universal washrooms at Vancouver Airport do not have power-assisted push button door openers. Upon follow-up, the Vancouver Airport committed to installing power-assisted doors for all new universal washrooms, and to the existing universal washrooms as they are retrofitted.

With respect to service animal relief area, Vancouver Airport has enhanced accessibility for persons travelling with service animals to the United States by introducing a pilot project to include an indoor animal relief area post-security at the US departures terminal, complete with artificial grass, touchless entry, lowered counters for individuals using wheelchairs, and signage indicating the location of the relief area, with plans to provide additional indoor animal relief areas for other departures. Vancouver Airport also provides designated well-appointed exterior service animal relief areas outside the terminal.  

However, there is no signage within the airport to indicate the location of the exterior animal relief areas. Airport authorities explained to Agency staff that this information could be obtained from terminal staff at the information desk and that the information is available on its terminal maps, website, mobile app and outside the terminal. Agency staff pointed out that section 2.5.4 of the Terminal Code sets out the expectation that, where designated animal relief areas are provided, they are to be clearly identified and accessible directional signs to these designated relieving areas are to be provided. Vancouver Airport committed to providing additional signage by including signs on the digital screens above baggage carousels, close to the entrance leading to the animal relief area, in addition to having terminal staff and Green Coat volunteers available to provide guiding assistance to locate the relief areas.

With respect to automated self-service kiosks, Vancouver Airport informed Agency staff that it was working on replacing a number of its check-in kiosks with accessible hardware, with the intention of meeting the provisions in section 1.3 of the Communication Code, i.e., to ensure that 25 percent of automated kiosks located in each area of a terminal would be accessible by December 31, 2022. The Airport also informed Agency staff that it was collaborating with carriers to install accessible software applications, in order to make the kiosks completely accessible. It made a commitment to ensure that all existing accessible check-in kiosks are identified by the international symbol of access immediately, and new kiosks will have signage as and when they are installed in the future.

Regarding the requirement in the PTR to provide disability awareness training to employees and contractors, the Vancouver Airport explained its 'My Learning' program to Agency staff, and described in depth how a profile is created for a new hire and assigned mandatory training.

However, at the time of the assessment, the Vancouver Airport was found to be non-compliant with the following sections of the PTR, and was issued with a formal warning:

Section 9 of the PTR:

9. Every carrier and terminal operator shall ensure that all employees and contractors of the carrier or terminal operator receive periodic refresher training sessions appropriate to the requirements of their function.

Although the Vancouver Airport's Description of Training Program indicated that the Vancouver Airport requires refresher training to be completed by all applicable employees and contractors every 2 years, at the time of inspection, 41 employees were not current in the training requirements.

Upon follow up by Agency staff, the Vancouver Airport Authority acknowledged a gap in its system in regards to notifications to staff for refresher training, took immediate measures to remedy the issue, and ensured all staff affected by the issue received refresher training, and provided the Agency with proof of completion of refresher training.

Section 8 of the PTR:

8. Every carrier and terminal operator shall ensure that all employees and contractors of the carrier or terminal operator who are required by these Regulations to receive training complete their initial training within 60 days after the commencement of their duties.

Reports provided to Agency staff showed an employee occupying the position of "Director, Commercial Services, Terminals", did not complete disability awareness training within 60 days of commencement of their duties. The Vancouver Airport remedied this issue by providing training to the affected staff, such that it is now in compliance with the requirements of the PTR.


The Vancouver Airport has incorporated several universal accessibility features in its efforts to make the airport universally accessible. The Airport demonstrated a strong commitment to meeting the accessibility standards in the Terminal Code, the Communication Code, and the PTR. It is aware of its responsibilities in respect of the Agency's regulations and codes of practice and has undertaken measures to ensure that its facilities are accessible.

Future action 

The Agency will continue to monitor the accessibility of the federal transportation network to ensure that passengers with disabilities can travel without encountering undue obstacles to their mobility.

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