Passenger Terminal Accessibility

Table of contents

Purpose of this Code of Practice

The purpose of this Code is to provide a minimum level of accessibility for passenger terminals across Canada and to further improve the accessibility of terminals for persons with disabilities on a systemic basis as they use the federal transportation system. The Agency recognizes that terminals may vary significantly depending on the mode of transportation, location and passenger volume at each. As such, not all provisions in this Code will be relevant to all terminals.

While this Code focuses on the needs of persons with disabilities while they travel, the terminal enhancements contained in the Code will benefit most travellers. The Agency recognizes that the availability of some of the services described in this Code can only be provided when passengers communicate their needs. Passengers with disabilities may need to self-identify to take advantage of services that may be available.

The Agency emphasizes that this Code presents minimum standards that those subject to the Code are to meet and urges them to strive to exceed these standards wherever feasible.


This Code is applicable to public facilities and services, operated and maintained by terminal operators, and located inside or outside the main terminal facility and which are necessary to the successful execution of a trip. This includes parking, passenger drop-off and pick-up areas, transportation within and between terminals, public security screening and baggage claim areas. This also includes work which may be contracted out by terminal operators and which is necessary to the successful execution of a trip, such as parking services or ground transportation. While this does not include retail outlets such as shops and restaurants, or other areas or services that are not vital, integral or necessary to the operation of a terminal, these are nevertheless encouraged to meet the provisions of this Code to better serve the needs of all of their customers.

Those covered by this Code may also be subject to the regulations and codes of practice listed in the /introduction under Section A, which are already in effect.

There is nothing in this Code of Practice that relieves any organization subject to this Code from complying with the provisions of any applicable safety and security standards or building codes.

Who is covered by this Code

The following terminal operators are to comply with the provisions contained within sections 1 to 3 of this Code:

Air terminal operators:
Operators of terminals within the National Airports System.
Rail terminal operators:
Operators of terminals with 10,000 or more passengers embarking and 10,000 or more passengers disembarking in each of the two preceding calendar years, excluding those terminals operated and maintained by carriers that provide only commuter or tourist services.
Ferry terminal operators:
Canadian ferry terminals with 10,000 or more passengers embarking and 10,000 or more passengers disembarking in each of the two preceding calendar years; and at which ferries of 1,000 gross tonnes or more operate between provinces or territories, or between a province or territory and the United States.

Although other passenger terminal operators in Canada are not subject to this Code, they are encouraged to implement its provisions.

Any security agency or authority responsible for pre-board screening of passengers and their belongings, operating in any air, rail or ferry terminal covered by this Code, is to comply with the provisions contained within section 4 of this Code.

Section 1: Technical specifications for accessibility

The Agency recognizes the expertise of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) in establishing appropriate dimensions and design features for buildings and other facilities which are meant to ensure access and use by persons with disabilities.

The CSA is an association engaged in the development of standards and certification activities. CSA standards reflect a national consensus of producers and users, including consumers, retailers, unions, governmental agencies, and manufacturers. The standards are used by industry and have been adopted by all levels of government in their regulations, particularly in the fields of health, safety, building and construction, and the environment. Approximately one-third of the CSA standards have been referenced into law by provincial and federal authorities.

The CSA's CAN/CSA-B651, Accessible Design for the Built Environment, (CSA design standard), is the third edition of a design standard that was first published in 1990. The standard states that it was developed to fulfill an expressed need for a national, technical standard covering a broad range of building and environmental facilities and that can be referenced in whole or in part by a variety of adopting authorities.

The CSA design standard contains requirements for making buildings and other facilities accessible to persons with a range of physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities. The provisions contained in this standard are minimum levels and include requirements for, among other things, operating controls (door handles, faucets, etc.), floor and ground surfaces, protrusion hazards, detectable floor and ground surfaces, doors, handrails, stairs, ramps, elevators, signs, washrooms, parking, ticketing machines for parking, drinking fountains, etc. (See a more comprehensive list of the technical specifications that are contained within the CSA design standard.)

As noted above, the Agency recognizes the expertise of the CSA. As such, terminal operators are to specify in their requests for proposals, contracts and other governing documents for the design and construction of new buildings; the alteration, reconstruction and renovation of existing buildings; and the replacement of equipment, that work will comply with the applicable provisions of the CSA's design standard. That is, as new buildings are constructed, existing buildings are renovated, or equipment covered under the CSA's standard such as drinking fountains and handrails are replaced, those buildings, renovations, or changes will conform with the provisions contained within the CSA's standard.

The Agency emphasizes that the CSA design standard presents minimum standards and urges terminal operators to strive to exceed these standards wherever feasible.

In addition, terminal facilities may be in shared premises with other tenants. As such, common areas may be operated and maintained by a landlord, and not a terminal operator, and may be governed by other codes and standards, such as building codes, which contain accessibility provisions. Where this is the case, terminal operators are encouraged to work actively with landlords to ensure that the needs of passengers with disabilities are met, and in this regard, are encouraged to use this Code as a reference.

There is nothing in this Code of Practice that relieves any organization subject to this Code from complying with the provisions of any applicable safety and security standards or building codes.

  • Section 1- Implementation tips

    How to obtain a copy of B651

    B651 can be purchased from the CSA's website or by contacting the CSA.


    • International Best Practices in Universal Design: A Global Review (March, 2006) is a comparative study of accessibility criteria in codes and standards from around the world. It compares provisions of the CSA's B651, the National Building Code of Canada, the Americans With Disabilities Act Access Guidelines, and standards from a variety of other countries. In addition, it describes and provides photos of best practices from around the world. Copies are available on CD or in print, on request. 
    • ACCESS: A Guide to Accessible Design for Designers, Builders, Facility Owners and Managers (3rd edition, 2000) provides best practices and useful commentary on how to fulfill the requirements of the accessibility provisions of the National Building Code of Canada. While the guide was based on the 1995 edition of the National Building Code, the majority of commentaries are still relevant. Copies of this Guide can be obtained through the Fort Garry bookstore at the University of Manitoba. 
    • The Assistive Devices Industry Office of Industry Canada has a database called "Canadian Company Capabilities" on which companies providing assistive devices and accessibility related products and services can self-register and provide information about their offerings. It provides users with the ability to search through the database of products and services, by region, type of disability, and type of product or service. 


    • Architects, designers, engineers and relevant terminal staff should familiarize themselves with the contents of B651 to avoid having to make changes later on in the process of building or renovations.
    • Consider getting an audit of your facility to see which areas could use improvement in terms of accessibility. A number of organizations provide this service on a fee for service basis, including consultants and organizations of and for persons with disabilities. For more information, refer to the list of national and provincial organizations representing the interests of persons with disabilities.

Section 2: Facility considerations

2.1 General considerations

2.1.1 The needs of persons with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities are to be included at the planning and design stage of projects including renovations and new construction, rather than after a project has been completed. The Agency is of the view that it is important to consult with persons knowledgeable in disability issues. This is especially important when addressing issues that are not already considered in other relevant accessibility standards such as the CSA's design standard referred to in section 1.

In addition, during the planning stage of projects, terminal operators are to apply the Principles of Universal Design©.

  • Section 2.1.1 - Implementation tips

    Note: Consultation could include, for example, consultants and representatives of groups of and for persons with disabilities (refer to subsection 3.2  for more information on consultation).

    The Principles of Universal Design©

    "Universal design" is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

    The authors, a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, collaborated to establish the Principles of Universal Design© to guide a wide range of design disciplines including those respecting environments, products, and communications. These seven principles may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

    The Principles of Universal Design© address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than usability. Designers must also consider economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes. These principles offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible.

    See a list of the Principles of Universal Design© and their guidelines along with some examples of applications of the principles.


    Terminal operators should consider using a universal design consultant or else referring architects to resources on universal design when planning any new construction or renovation.

    Best Practices

    • Vancouver International Airport has a consultant who reviews drawings during the early stages of planning new construction. The review includes a technical review of drawings as well as an assessment of wayfinding implications. In addition, the airport includes accessibility criteria in the design criteria specified for tenants in the facility to ensure that public retail spaces such as shops and restaurants will be accessible. 
    • Edmonton International Airport has a barrier-free committee made up of representatives of a variety of groups of and for persons with disabilities, and seniors, which meets semi-annually. In addition to its other tasks, the committee is consulted on all renovations and new capital projects. The committee works closely with project managers including reviewing project drawings. In addition, the committee conducts site visits to the airport to provide input on projects. 
    • Winnipeg International Airport has incorporated the Principles of Universal Design© into the planning for its new terminal which is scheduled to open in 2009. The airport involves its Universal Design Advisory Committee, which consists of members from the airport authority, carriers, the community and a universal design consultant, in planning for any new development. 
    • Ottawa International Airport has a built-in tape barrier system to indicate when washrooms are out of service. This system includes both high and low tapes which ensure that it is cane detectable by persons who have a visual disability. 
    • Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport has installed adult changing stations, within the family restrooms, in all of its terminals. These areas are designed to provide people with disabilities and their personal care attendants, a comfortable and private location to perform a variety of tasks including changing clothing. The changing stations have a table covered in a removable, cleanable vinyl top. The table is the same height as the toilet and has an accessible grab bar. 


    • The article, The Concept of Universal Design© by Edward Steinfeld at the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center) in Buffalo, provides an overview of Universal Design and how it differs from barrier-free, or accessible design. 
    • The Principles of Universal Design© are embraced in the Maximizing Abilities in the Workplace guide which was prepared by PARA – Progressive Accessibility Re-Form Associates. While the guide is geared towards the workplace, terminal operators may find the ten-point checklist for evaluating a building to be useful. The guide may be obtained free of charge from the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba
    • The City of Edmonton's Advisory Board on Services for Persons with Disabilities has created a Checklist for Accessibility and Universal Design in Architecture which is available free of charge on its website. The purpose of the checklist is to facilitate the application of accessibility and universal design principles and should assist in creating spaces accessible by all. The checklist is not a substitute for the National Building Code or the CSA's B651 standard. It is an additional tool that can be used during planning of new construction or renovations, or to perform building audits. 
    • The City of Winnipeg has a universal design policy which includes the incorporation of universal design planning into all new construction and renovations to buildings and exterior environments, as well as new developments in services, products or systems. Among other things, the policy includes a checklist that can be used as an assessment tool to evaluate how well the design of a building, product or service meets the criteria of universal design. 
    • Universal Design Education Online provides information and resources such as universal design bibliographies, readings, the Americans With Disabilities Act and universal design, and a variety of other topics.
    • The Universal Design Network provides on-line news about universal design and links to other universal design sites. 
    • Access Exchange International (AEI) is a non governmental organization which promotes accessible public transport for persons with disabilities and seniors internationally including the Americas. AEI assists stakeholders internationally as they promote, plan, and implement accessible bus, rail, and other transport for seniors and passengers with disabilities. They do this through their publications and list of web links, with workshops and with consultation services. For example, the resource section on access to public transit has a focus on design and implementation of accessible transport vehicles, stops, terminals and facilities. 

2.1.2 During the design phase of new construction and renovations, terminal operators are to incorporate wayfinding methods that allow a person to find his or her way to a given destination.

Buildings should be designed to minimize reliance on directional signage. Wayfinding considerations include, among other things, the positioning of entrances and exits, the use of colour contrasting, pattern direction on floors or walls, tactile markings, the arrangement of architectural features such as walls or columns, acoustics, and lighting. These features can help direct people to their intended destination.

  • Section 2.1.2 - Implementation tips


    • Tactile surfaces as a method of wayfinding are covered in B651, subsection 4.1.2, Detectable floor and ground surfaces.
    • Section 2.2 of the Communication Code provides information on signage including standards, technical information, accessible signage and manufacturers.

    Best Practices

    • Vancouver International Airport has tactile wayfinding markings to assist persons who are blind. At the design stage of projects, a consultant reviews the plans and, among other things, incorporates wayfinding methods into its design. The airport also has blinds which adjust automatically to compensate for light levels and speakers in the departures area that adjust automatically to compensate for changing sound levels because of crowds. Tactile maps of its international terminal building are available at the customer service counters. 
    • The Ottawa International Airport uses tile patterns and textured flooring for wayfinding, including indicating the location of escalators. 
    • The Canadian National Institute for the Blind Centre in Toronto has a variety of wayfinding techniques incorporated into its design including talking elevators and signs, natural and diffused lighting, varying floor textures, tactile maps and tactile signs. 
    • The City of Toronto uses accessible pedestrian signals at a number of locations around the city. The system uses a programmed voice message that provides information on road obstacles such as medians. The unit also has a locator tone to help users find the activation button. The unit can automatically adjust the volume of the signals and messages to compensate for street noise. The unit also has a tactile push button with a raised directional arrow. This Polara Engineering product received the 2005 CNIB Winston Gordon Award which recognizes advances in technology that improves the quality of life for Canadians living with vision loss. 
    • Hong Kong International Airport has tactile guide paths which lead from the departures curb to the help phones installed at the main entrance of the passenger terminal; from both levels of the airport train station to the customer services centre; and from the station platform to the information counter on the departures level. 
    • Narita International Airport in Japan has tactile flooring which directs passengers to the departure lobby information counter from the railway stations and from the pick-up and drop-off areas in front of terminals when arriving by train or car. In addition, audio instructions alert travellers at the end of moving walkways. 


    • Going Places: Access Needs of Visually Impaired Travellers in Transportation Terminals: Design Guidelines prepared for Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind contains useful tips to consider when designing a transportation terminal that will meet the needs of travellers who have a visual disability. Among other things, the manual describes features that are particularly important to passengers who are blind or have low vision such as lighting, acoustics, textural information, cane detectability, etc. In addition, this document contains an insert which contains a colour differential chart from 3M. The chart helps users compare colours to determine whether they meet the appropriate contrast level. 
    • Clearing our Path: Recommendations on how to make public places accessible to people who are blind, visually impaired, and deafblind from The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Ontario Division, provides guidance on wayfinding methods and design basics such as lighting, colour and contrast, acoustics, detectable warning surfaces, signage and a variety of other topics. 
    • Effective Color Contrast: Designing for People with Partial Sight and Color Deficiencies is a useful reference about colour contrasting. It can be found on the website of Lighthouse International, a non-profit group that helps people who have visual disabilities.
    • The Society of Light and Lighting, part of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, has published "Factfile No. 8: Lighting for People who are Visually Impaired". This document provides guidance on effective lighting for people who have a visual disability.
    • The CNIB Centre in Toronto has an accessible design service which provides expertise in universal design, accessibility and adaptive technology. 
    • The CNIB Centre in Toronto uses infrared communications technology. This technology may be used wherever landmark identification and wayfinding assistance are needed. To use this system, the user scans the environment with a hand-held receiver. As individual signals are encountered, the user hears the messages. For example, upon entering a lobby, one might detect "information and security desk" when pointing the receiver directly ahead," to elevators and public telephones" when pointing to the right and "stairs up to second floor" when pointing to the left. This technology is also used in a variety of American transit stations and public buildings. In addition, a number of other countries including Japan are using this technology. For more information, contact the CNIB Centre in Toronto.
    • Improving Transportation Information: Design Guidelines for Making Travel more Accessible contains information on such subjects as talking signs, auditory maps which guide a person through an environment with an oral description that has been pre-recorded, colour, contrast, lighting, assistive techniques for a variety of disabilities, verbal landmarks, auditory pathways, tactile information, tactile maps, detectable warning surfaces, where information should be located, and some best practices on the part of transportation providers. This document also includes an information checklist for ensuring a terminal facility is accessible both inside and out. It can be obtained free of charge from Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre
    • A relatively new technology in wayfinding is the use of fluorescent lights to transmit data. The fluorescent lights have been modified to transmit data that is picked up by a receiver or a personal digital assistant, in addition to beaming light. Either text or auditory messages can be received. The technology can be used for directional information, or other types of information. 


    The following are a number of tips to keep in mind when planning wayfinding in your facility:

    • Wayfinding references should be available at decision points.
    • Colour is an extremely useful wayfinding tool as most persons who are blind still have a certain amount of residual vision and will be able to detect colour contrasting.
    • Colour can be used to identify routes and provide assistance in locating doors, walls and hazards. Proper colour contrast between different elements greatly improves visibility for all users and is critical for persons with low vision or colour-blindness. For example, colour contrasting of door frames can assist in locating doors and floors should be contrasted with walls. In addition, furniture should contrast with walls and floors so as not to create an obstacle.
    • Structural elements such as columns should be colour contrasted or brightly marked so as to be visible to those who may have a visual disability.
    • Generally, patterns on flooring should be avoided or else should be minimal and small to avoid visual confusion.
    • Walls should be finished with a matte finish in light colours to maximise available light.
    • Where large glass walls or windows are in use, glass should be marked with contrasted graphics or lettering at eye level so that people will not accidentally walk into the glass.
    • In addition to identifying hazards or warnings, tactile floor surfaces can also be used to inform that there is a change in area (e.g. leaving a corridor and entering a boarding area).
    • Tactile systems should be consistent throughout the building. For example, terminals should not have carpeting in some boarding areas and tile in others as this may create confusion for those who rely on tactile surfaces to guide them to their destination. This is especially important with tactile warning systems which should always appear sufficiently in advance of the hazard.
    • A surface does not have to have a raised pattern to be tactile. For example, a change in floor surface from tile to carpeting or to mats, will feel different and sound different to a person who has a visual disability. Different types of tiles or flooring may produce very distinctive sounds and thus be of use in wayfinding.
    • Tactile surfaces on walls can be designed to aid orientation.
    • Sound can be a very useful aid in wayfinding. For example, sound can be used in elevators to both differentiate direction and announce when passing or arriving at floors. If a bell rings twice when an elevator arrives, the elevator is going down and if a bell rings once, it means it is going up.
    • Sound emanating from a water feature such as a fountain or waterfall may be used to assist passengers in orienting themselves. However, sound which may help passengers with a visual disability, may cause problems for passengers with a hearing disability. As such, consultation is critical when designing wayfinding systems in a facility.
    • Carpeting and acoustic ceiling tiles can assist in reducing external sound pollution.
    • Good lighting assists those with a visual disability to see better and allows people who have a hearing disability to lip read easier. However, care should be taken to properly direct lighting and to use matte finishes on floors, walls and signage, so as not to create glare which may create difficulties for all travellers.
    • Blinds can be used to adjust lighting levels in areas where the natural lighting changes significantly throughout the day.
    • Floor to ceiling mirrors should be avoided as they can distort space perception.
    • Design elements should be consistent throughout the facility so as not to confuse passengers who are relying on visual cues to orient themselves.

    Remember to consult with persons or organizations knowledgeable in disability issues when planning wayfinding systems.

2.1.3 Terminal operators are to ensure that accessibility features are maintained in good working order.

2.1.4 To avoid the creation of new barriers, the repair of uneven surfaces and the removal of furniture, fixtures or obstructions that encroach on corridors or accessible paths of travel and other such maintenance is to be performed on a regular basis.

If repairs or maintenance are required, or if an obstruction must remain in the path of travel, terminal operators are to ensure that the obstruction is detectable by those persons using canes to guide them and clearly colour-contrasted so as to be detectable by a person with a visual disability.

  • Section 2.1.4 - Implementation tips


    • Uneven surfaces, gravel, holes and gaps between paving stones on exterior routes may cause problems to people who use wheelchairs or people who have a visual disability.
    • Temporary hazards, such as a spill, leak, or minor repairs, should be clearly identifiable. Whatever method is used to identify the hazard should be colour contrasted and cane detectable.
    • When repairs are made in the path of travel, the path of travel should remain wide enough for wheelchair users.
    • Obstructions such as garbage cans or vending machines should be placed out of the flow of traffic. If they must remain in the path of travel, they should be clearly colour contrasted and cane detectable so that they can be more easily avoided by a person with a visual disability.

2.2 Outdoor considerations

2.2.1 Passenger drop-off and pick-up areas for passengers with disabilities are to be available at the curb, as close as possible to entrance and exit areas. Where this is not possible or practical, drop-off and pick-up areas should be as close as possible to the entrance and exit areas.

  • Section 2.2.1 - Implementation tips

    Best Practice

    Designated drop-off and pick-up spaces, identified with the international symbol for disability, are located directly in front of the terminal at Halifax Airport. For more information, contact the airport at


    • At airports with more than one level, shuttle buses sometimes drop off passengers at the arrivals level and not the departures level. This may make it difficult for passengers with visual disabilities to find their way to the check-in area on a different level. Where this is the case, terminal operators should ensure that assistance is available for passengers who need to make their way to the check-in area.
    • Designated drop-off points for persons with disabilities should be clearly marked and should provide safe access for passengers with wheelchairs to the terminal door. If these areas are not immediately outside the terminal, or if it is necessary to cross a road, a pedestrian crossing should be provided. The location of these areas should be provided on terminal operators' websites (refer to section 3.5.2 of the Terminal Code for more information).

2.2.2 Exterior accessible paths of travel, including for example, from parking areas, drop-off and pick-up areas, are to be kept clear of snow and ice for the safety of all passengers. It is recognized however, that there may be extenuating circumstances, such as severe winter storms or breakdown in equipment for example, that may hinder the timely removal of snow and ice.

2.3 Rest areas

Some people have difficulty standing for long periods or walking long distances and may find areas of certain terminals problematic if seating is not provided. This may be particularly relevant in larger terminals where there may be long circulation paths from the time of entry to boarding areas. Potentially problematic areas include, for example, baggage retrieval areas, long corridors, and passages to boarding platforms or boarding gates.

2.3.1 Where this is the case, terminal operators are to provide seating along the circulation path at regular intervals to ensure that persons who need to rest, have a place to do so. If seating is not possible, some other means is to be available upon request, to assist passengers with mobility impairments in getting to their destination.

  • Section 2.3.1 - Implementation tips


    Subsection 2.6 of the Communication Code states that where seating is provided, designated seating for passengers with disabilities is to be provided at boarding gates and departure areas within viewing distance of communication boards and/or personnel and identified by the universal symbol of access.

    Best Practices

    • The Greater Toronto Airport Authority has instituted the Airport Customer Assistance Program (ACAP). ACAP provides point-to-point transportation and assistance for persons with disabilities and those in need of mobility assistance. It is designed to provide service from the moment of arrival to the seat of the aircraft. Departing passengers meet an attendant in the parking garage, on the curb or in the terminal. Arriving passengers are met by an attendant at the aircraft and are escorted to the party they are meeting, to ground transportation or to another airline or terminal for a connecting flight. There is no charge to the passenger for this service. ACAP staff speak 60 languages including sign language. The service includes wheelchair service, electric cart service, and porter service. For further information, contact or (416) 776-2227.
    • Terminal 3 of Toronto Pearson International Airport has a designated priority area for persons with disabilities to collect their checked baggage from the carousel. This area is clearly marked with the international symbol of access. In addition, many airports including Edmonton International Airport, provide seating in the baggage carousel area so that passengers may be seated while awaiting arrival of their baggage.
    • Many airports, including the Calgary International Airport and Vancouver International Airport, have electric cart service to take passengers with disabilities from the security screening area to boarding gates.
    • Dubai International Airport provides a dedicated lounge in the arrivals hall for unaccompanied minors and passengers with disabilities. Airline or ground handling staff will bring passengers to this lounge where they can meet the parties who are awaiting them. 


    • Terminal operators should consider the distance between rest areas, the size of terminal and whether other means such as wheelchair or electric cart services are available when considering the distance between seating areas.
    • Improving Transport Accessibility for All: Guide to Good Practice published by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, suggests that as a general guide, there should be seating so that passengers do not need to walk more than 50 to 60 metres before being able to sit and rest. While this guideline may be of interest to terminal operators, the Agency notes that terminal operators may wish to do their own research when finding a solution that best fits their facilities and the needs of their passengers. 
    • A range of seating will meet a variety of needs. For example, seats without armrests may more easily meet the needs of larger passengers while armrests may better serve the needs of persons who need to push themselves up from the seat.
    • More than one size of wheelchair may be useful to have on hand for terminal operators who provide wheelchair service. Some larger wheelchairs will be useful for persons who are of larger stature and also, to accommodate passengers wearing heavy winter outerwear. In addition, terminal operators may want to consider providing wheelchairs with other features such as swing-away footrests and liftable armrests. Providing a variety of styles of wheelchairs will allow terminal operators to meet a wider range of needs.

2.3.2 In some areas there may be long waiting periods and inherent problems in providing fixed seating due to queuing systems, such as those for ticket sale counters, check-in counters, and secured screening and publication/customs areas.

In cases such as this, rail and ferry terminal operators are to have an alternative means available to address the needs of people who may have difficulty standing in lines.

Air terminal operators are to discuss with the authorities who operate and maintain those areas, the provision of alternative means for persons with disabilities to avoid having to stand for long periods of time.

Terminal operators are reminded that they are also to comply with section 2.6 of the Communication Code that deals with designated seating at boarding gates and departure areas.

  • Section 2.3.2 - Implementation tips

    Note: Alternate means could include, for example, an expedited line for persons who have difficulty standing for long periods and the pre-purchasing of tickets.


    Subsection 2.6 of the Communication Code deals with designated seating at boarding gates and departure areas.

    Best Practices

    • VIA Rail offers its passengers the opportunity to pre-purchase tickets over the internet or by telephone and print them at a self-service ticketing kiosk or receive them by mail. This avoids passengers having to stand in line at the station as there is no need to "check in" when travelling by train. 
    • Some airlines, such as WestJet and Air Canada, offer their passengers the opportunity to check-in and print their boarding passes up to 24 hours before flying. Passengers travelling without checked baggage can go directly to the security screening area upon arrival at the airport.

2.4 Boarding and deboarding

Ownership and operation of boarding equipment varies depending on the mode of transportation. In rail and ferry transportation, terminals are generally owned by rail and ferry carriers and boarding equipment is generally owned and operated by the same entities. In air transportation however, ownership and operation of boarding equipment varies greatly. Boarding equipment may be owned by an air carrier, an airport operator, a ground handling company or, a combination of these.

Given the possible scenarios for ownership and operation of boarding equipment, airport operators are encouraged to work with carriers and other entities such as ground handling companies responsible for boarding and deboarding, to ensure that, whenever possible, appropriate boarding equipment for carriers operating from that facility is available and used for boarding and deboarding persons with disabilities.

In addition, problems can arise when transferring mobility aids from the boarding level in preparation for carriage, or when boarding equipment is available but is not used due to a lack of training or information on the part of staff responsible for boarding and deboarding.

2.4.1 Boarding bridges, platforms, or gangways are to be accessible to persons with disabilities during the boarding and deboarding process.

  • Section 2.4.1 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • GO Transit, Ontario's inter-regional transit system, has some accessible train stations equipped with ramped mini-platforms on the main platform. When trains pull into the station, a crew member places a portable bridge between the accessible rail car of the train and the mini-platform which allows step-free access to the train. 
    • Amtrak in the United States has high platforms and low platforms available throughout its system, depending on the route and terminal in question. On high platforms, Amtrak assists passengers with disabilities across the gap between the platform and train using a bridge plate. On low platforms, Amtrak provides a lift. For bi-level trains, Amtrak provides wheelchair ramps to assist passengers in boarding the lower level of the train. 

2.4.2 Where the usual route of travel for boarding or deboarding is not accessible to persons with disabilities because of the presence of stairs, escalators or for other reasons, an alternate safe, dignified, and accessible route is to be available. Any alternate route is to be adequately maintained.

  • Section 2.4.2 - Implementation tips

    Note: Alternate routes could include, for example, the use of ramps, elevators and staircase lifts.

    Best Practice

    VIA Rail has hydraulic stair lifts in some heritage buildings to access the boarding platform level (for example, in Montreal). 

2.4.3 For the passenger who will not have access to his/her mobility aid during travel, such aid must be stored. A means is to be available to securely transfer the aid to or from the boarding level in preparation for carriage, without hand carrying it, to minimize the risk of damage.

  • Section 2.4.3 - Implementation tips


    • Hand carrying a large mobility aid such as a power wheelchair up or down stairs may result in staff being injured or the mobility aid being damaged. As such, mobility aids should be transferred up or down levels by way of elevator or other method which will not involve the aid being hand carried.
    • When designing or renovating a terminal or section of a terminal, consideration should be given to locating the elevators as close as possible to boarding gates.
    • Terminal operators should assist carriers in maximizing efficiency and timeliness by ensuring that elevators which are located near boarding gates are available for use by carrier staff for the secure and efficient transfer of mobility aids between levels. By providing an efficient route, carrier staff will not unnecessarily prolong the return of mobility aids to passengers arriving at their destination.

2.4.4 Where terminal operators own and operate boarding devices or equipment, they are to be properly maintained and available for use to board and deboard.

  • Section 2.4.4 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • Yellowknife Airport owns and maintains common use boarding chairs which are shared by the carriers operating out of its terminal. 
    • Edmonton International Airport has a lift for boarding passengers using wheelchairs onto a groundloaded aircraft. 
    • Los Angeles International Airport has a special assistance vehicle to transport passengers with disabilities between terminals and aircraft that are not served with boarding bridges. The vehicle seats up to 21 passengers or can accommodate seven wheelchairs. Included in its safety features is a front platform that pivots and self-adjusts to eliminate gaps between the aircraft and the vehicle. 
    • At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, mobile lounges are used to transport passengers between arriving/departing aircraft and some gates. These mobile lounges have reserved spaces for passengers using wheelchairs, designated by the international symbol of access. 


    Although terminal operators may not own and operate boarding devices, they can help to facilitate formal sharing arrangements between carriers. Terminal operators could also facilitate arrangements whereby one carrier uses the lift of another if its own lift is out of service. These types of arrangements benefit terminals, carriers and, most of all, passengers.

2.4.5 Where terminals are owned or operated by transportation service providers, and boarding equipment is available for use at that terminal, it is to be used in a manner to provide safe and dignified boarding and deboarding of persons with disabilities.

  • Section 2.4.5 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • Some of VIA's staffed rail stations have hydraulic lifts for boarding and deboarding.
    • Marine Atlantic shuttle buses, which board people who are travelling without their own car, have automatic lifts for passengers who use wheelchairs. 
    • Northumberland Ferries has wheelchairs and golf carts for persons requiring boarding assistance. 

2.5 Relieving areas for service animals

People travelling with service animals need to relieve their animals regularly, particularly during lengthy trips. In many cases, the location and layout of the facility will already provide suitable space outdoors where animals may be relieved. However, if passengers have limited connecting time between flights, leaving and reentering the secured screening area can pose an additional challenge to persons who may need to relieve their animals. To avoid unnecessary delays or problems, staff or volunteers should be provided with the necessary information to direct travellers along a safe path of travel, to the location of the nearest suitable relieving area, whether designated or not.

2.5.1 Terminal operators are to ensure that there is an area available for animals to relieve themselves, whether designated or not. In addition, terminal operators are to ensure that there is a safe path of travel between the terminal and suitable relieving areas.

Where possible, persons travelling with service animals should have access to a relieving area within secured areas for use between connections. Where this is not possible, one should be easily accessed from secured areas to minimize the time required to relieve a service animal.

  • Section 2.5.1 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • A number of Canadian airports including Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airport have designated relieving areas for animals including service animals. 
    • Sky Harbour International Airport in Phoenix has relieving areas for service animals (the "paw pad" and the "bone yard"). These areas provide water and bowls for drinking, are lit at night and have bags for cleaning up after animals. These areas are used by both travelling animals and also the working dogs of the airport. 


    • Service animals may have different preferences for surfaces for relieving themselves. Generally, gravel or grass works well in a relieving area as not all animals will relieve themselves on hard surfaces such as concrete. Ideally, relieving areas should provide more than one surface.
    • Other considerations for relieving areas include providing a fenced in area, locating the area away from high traffic areas, providing a garbage can or other container for the hygienic disposal of waste, and providing a water source to facilitate the cleaning of the area by staff. In addition, terminal operators may wish to consider providing plastic bags for cleanup. Signage should be provided which reminds users to clean up after their animals.

2.5.2 Terminal operators are to ensure that terminal staff or volunteers who may interact with the public, as well as carriers operating from that terminal, are made aware of the location of relieving areas, whether designated or not, so that they may make known to the public, upon request, where service animals may relieve themselves.

  • Section 2.5.2 - Implementation tips


    If there are no designated relieving areas, terminal staff and volunteers should be able to direct persons to the most convenient and secure location to relieve their animal. This is helpful for passengers who are not familiar with the layout of a terminal and will help to minimize the time required to relieve an animal. This is especially important if passengers have connections to make.

2.5.3 Terminal operators are to ensure that staff, volunteers and carriers are made aware of any procedures, if applicable, to facilitate passage for travellers from security screening areas to a relieving area for service animals, and re-entry to make connections.

2.5.4 Where designated relieving areas are provided, they are to be clearly identified and accessible directional signs to these designated relieving areas are to be provided.

Signs are to comply with section 2.2 of the Agency's Communication Code.

2.5.5 Designated relieving areas are to be adequately maintained.

2.6 Transportation within and between passenger terminals

All modes of transportation within and between passenger terminals (for example, shuttle buses and light rail) are to be accessible.

Public announcements within these modes of transportation are also to be made in both audio and visual format.

  • Section 2.6 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • The Greater Toronto Airport Authority has an accessible light rail link between Terminal 1, Terminal 3 and the reduced-rate parking area. It is accessible to persons who use wheelchairs and provides all announcements in both audio and video format. In addition, there is an on-board button that calls directly to the customer service office and a speaker that allows the parties to communicate. 
    • Los Angeles International Airport has a lift-equipped shuttle that operates continuously in a loop between its terminals. 

2.7 Ground transportation

Ground transportation is a key element to the successful execution of a trip for passengers who do not have their own means of transportation from a terminal. As such, terminal operators are expected to ensure that accessible ground transportation is available for passengers and enter into contracts to this end.

Ground transportation at terminals, including accessible ground transportation, varies by type and availability. In addition, passenger needs for ground transportation may vary greatly from person to person. For example, small mobility aids, such as folding wheelchairs and walkers, are similar in size to luggage and as such, while recognizing that available space is dependent on the number of passengers and pieces of luggage being carried, can be carried by any vehicle.

However, those passengers who use larger mobility aids such as power wheelchairs and scooters will have different needs than those using smaller mobility aids. As such, passengers need to have access to information as to the type of ground transportation that is available, including accessible ground transportation, prior to making a decision about travel to or from a particular terminal.

2.7.1 Terminal operators are to include in contracts with ground transportation service providers, as contracts are being drawn up or renewed, clauses that require the provision of accessible ground transportation.

2.7.2 Ground transportation service providers should have adapted vehicles to accommodate the transportation of people with disabilities using large mobility aids.

In very limited circumstances, ground transportation service providers may not, themselves, own or operate adapted vehicles. Where a ground transportation service provider does not have the necessary means to transport a person with a disability using a large mobility aid, the ground transportation service provider is to have an agreement with an alternative provider to provide an equivalent level of service.

In cases where an equivalent level of service is not available but another means of accessible transportation is available in the community, whether through another commercial service provider or a community organization, terminal operators are to advise the public of the means to access these other service providers. Upon request, terminal operators are also to make their best efforts to assist passengers with disabilities who have difficulty making suitable ground transportation arrangements.

Key elements for the provision of accessible ground transportation that are to be included by terminal operators in their contracts with ground transportation service providers such as those that operate rental cars, buses, shuttles or taxis have been developed.

  • Section 2.7.2 - Implementation tips

    Reminder: Subsection 2.5 of the Communication Code contains information on ground transportation including guidelines from other countries.

2.7.3 Terminal operators are to have means to inform the public of the types of ground transportation available at the terminal and resource information for these services, including accessible ground transportation, in advance of travel.

In addition, terminal operators are to ensure that information is available to the public about the procedures for the provision of ground transportation services to persons with disabilities. For example, passengers should be made aware of any need to make advance reservations for accessible ground transportation.

As previously stated, terminal operators are expected to ensure that accessible ground transportation is available from the terminal. Where accessible ground transportation is, however, not available at the terminal for persons using larger mobility aids, terminal operators are to include this fact in public information on ground transportation.

Terminal operators are reminded that they are also to comply with section 2.5 of the Communication Code that deals with information on ground transportation.

  • Section 2.7.3 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • Because the contracted ground transportation service provider does not have adapted vehicles, Charlottetown Airport Authority provides information regarding local accessible ground transportation on its Web site. This information includes the advance notice requirements for rental vehicles with hand controls. It also provides information as to how to access wheelchair accessible transportation through a local transportation company and also through a local non-profit organization. 
    • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport provides information on its website about accessible ground transportation at its facility including information on accessible public transit, rental vehicles equipped with hand controls, and accessible hotel shuttles. 
    • Los Angeles International Airport provides information on its Web site about the FlyAway Bus Service which has wheelchair lifts on its vehicles. It provides additional information such as advising that passengers with disabilities need to allow additional time to board the bus when scheduling a departure time and that drivers will provide assistance to clients getting on and off the bus and with their luggage. 


    For some travellers, the availability of accessible transportation, especially adapted vehicles to accommodate persons using larger mobility aids, is crucial information that is needed before making decisions about their trip. As such, the more information about what can be expected when travelling from a specific terminal, the better.

Section 3: Service considerations

3.1 Passenger assistance

Terminals vary greatly in size and complexity. Given the complexity of some larger terminals, particularly in entrance and exit areas, terminal operators are to provide a means for passengers to get information or assistance, during hours of service, once they have arrived at the terminal. The means to get information or assistance is to be available as close as possible to all major terminal entrances.

Terminal operators are reminded that they are also to comply with section 1.3 of the Communication Code that deals with automated information kiosks.

  • Section 3.1 - Implementation tips

    Note: Means may include, for example, a help point consisting of a direct line telephone or staffed booth, information kiosks, and/or roving staff or volunteers who can answer questions and provide other assistance to passengers.


    • Subsection 1.3 of the Communication Code provides information on the use of computerized information kiosks for the provision of transportation-related information.

    Best Practices

    • The Ottawa International Airport has direct line help phones at the entrances to the building which are staffed during hours of operation. These telephones have been marked with both Braille and a visual pictogram. Passengers can request assistance to get to their destination within the terminal. 
    • Halifax International Airport has a program for some staff members to learn sign language to assist passengers who are deaf. 
    • A number of Canadian airports have volunteers that roam the airport and provide assistance to travellers. These volunteers can usually be identified by their distinctive clothing such as a hat or a vest of a specific colour. An example of this program is the White Hat program at the Calgary Airport
    • In addition to its volunteer customer service ambassadors, Vancouver International Airport hires summer students each year to assist the customer service team in helping passengers with a variety of needs. The students are identifiable with their red vests and black pants. 
    • Albuquerque International Sunport provides direct line telephones for persons with disabilities throughout the airport, including at entrances and exits. In addition, the location of these telephones are shown on the terminal map which is located on-line.
    • Many American airports have skycaps who are able to assist passengers with disabilities with their bags and also to provide wheelchair or escort assistance. Arrangements can be made at the curb at the departure airport and with the carrier for the destination airport. Palm Springs Airport provides information about this service.


    • The Canadian Standards Association has developed Customer Service Standard for People with Disabilities, CSA B480. In addition, the CSA has developed additional resource material to accompany the standard such as a DVD and training materials. 
    • The European Conference of Ministers of Transport has published Improving Access to Public Transport: Guidelines for Transport Personnel. The guidelines are designed to encourage understanding of some of the problems experienced by persons with disabilities and seniors when using transportation systems. While the guidelines deal mostly with training issues, they could be useful for terminal staff when providing assistance to travellers. 


    • Direct line telephones should be strategically located throughout a terminal. Persons taking calls from direct line telephones should be knowledgeable about the layout of the facility and the services offered.
    • A valuable service that could be offered over the telephone is audible maps. These maps provide a verbal description of the building, where the person is currently located and where certain key areas are in relation to the person.
    • Terminal maps should be placed so that they are readily visible to persons who are standing and persons who use wheelchairs. Ideally, they should also be accessible to persons with a visual disability (i.e. tactile maps). Other alternatives include electronic navigation systems or audio maps.
    • Information or help desks should be close to the terminal entrance, and highly visible upon entering the terminal. In addition, they should be clearly identified and accessible to both those who use wheelchairs and those who stand. Ideally, these desks will have a map of the facility that desk attendants can view with passengers, when providing directions.
    • There should always be a help point close to the terminal entrance to assist passengers upon arriving at a terminal.
    • It is preferable that information desks not be combined with security desks as they have different purposes. If security is the main task, attendants may be too busy to provide assistance to passengers.

3.2 Consultation

Terminal operators are to have a means to consult with representatives of a variety of groups of and for persons with disabilities to inform themselves about the concerns of persons with disabilities in terms of the accessibility of their terminal and explore ways of addressing these concerns.

  • Section 3.2 - Implementation tips

    Note: Consultation could include, for example, an accessibility advisory group, a committee that meets on a regular basis or on an ad hoc basis, a group e-mail list of interested and involved members, or some other method of either formal or informal consultation.

    Best Practices

    • A number of terminal operators have formal accessibility advisory committees that meet regularly. For example, Edmonton International Airport's committee meets semi-annually and, in addition, is consulted on all renovations and new capital projects. 
    • Yellowknife Airport consults with persons with disabilities by using the Northwest Territories Council of Persons with Disabilities which is already in place.
    • VIA Rail has a cross-functional team on accessibility which meets quarterly to discuss accessibility matters such as implementation of Agency codes. The Committee includes representatives from all branches of VIA with some knowledge and/or experience in disability issues. 
    • The Greater Toronto Airport Authority specifically includes disability groups when it invites members of the public to take part in simulations to test new areas in their facility. For more information, refer to



    • An advisory committee should have representatives from a variety of organizations of and for persons with disabilities, in terms of perspective and background.
    • An advisory committee can be a working committee tasked with assisting terminal operators in implementing the provisions of the Terminal Code. In addition, it can help terminal operators resolve other operational issues associated with meeting the needs of persons with disabilities.
    • Create a working group and navigate through the terminal with members with various disabilities to determine what areas may be problematic when travelling. This proactive approach will help terminal operators remove potential problems in their facility.

3.3 Customer service

Open communication between parties goes a long way towards resolving issues which may arise between a passenger and a terminal operator. Passengers with concerns about accessibility issues should address these directly to terminal operators so that they may be resolved at the earliest possible stage. Terminal operators have a responsibility to address any such concerns or complaints as expeditiously and effectively as possible, directly with the consumer.

3.3.1 Terminal operators are to have a process in place to deal with public concerns or complaints. This process is to include a designated person or group to deal with accessibility related concerns.

  • Section 3.1.1 - Implementation tips

    Best Practice

    Marine Atlantic has an ombudsman who deals with complaints, including accessibility issues. In addition, the ombudsman brings complaints dealing with accessibility matters before Marine Atlantic's Accessibility Advisory Committee for discussion. 


    A designated person or group will be able to monitor trends and recurrent issues and implement systemic changes as required. Systemic issues may be overlooked if accessibility concerns or complaints are handled on a case by case basis by different people.

3.3.2 Terminal operators are to have a means to inform the public of the availability of this service, including how to voice a concern or make a complaint. Terminal operators' websites are to provide information about this service.

Websites are to comply with section 1.2 of the Agency's Communication Code.

The Agency works to resolve accessibility disputes and to address concerns in three ways: by facilitation, mediation and complaint adjudication. In situations where issues cannot be resolved between a person and a terminal operator, terminal operators are encouraged to contact the Agency for assistance or inform the person that he or she may contact staff of the Accessible Transportation Directorate of the Canadian Transportation Agency to address a disability-related concern.

  • Section 3.3.2 - Implementation tips


    • Subsection 1.2 of the Communication Code states that Web sites are to be made accessible to persons with disabilities by following the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

    Best Practices

    • Vancouver International Airport provides a feedback section which requests comments and suggestions on its facilities in its Barrier Free Access brochure. It provides the mailing address, telephone and fax numbers of the airport operator for complaints and comments. 
    • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has a prominent box on its website that states that if passengers have had difficulty gaining access to airport facilities or services, they should let the airport operator know. It provides an e-mail link and states that passengers should e-mail the airport operator to advise of the obstacles encountered and any suggestions for improvements. 

3.4 Escort passes

While carriers are required to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities while travelling, having an additional escort who is not travelling accompany a passenger with a disability to the boarding area could also be useful for many passengers. For example, if a passenger travels infrequently, or if a passenger uses oxygen and cannot take his or her own supply on board, an escort, whether a friend or a family member, could provide additional assistance to the passenger.

Terminal operators are to work with carriers to have a process in place to provide temporary passes to escorts, so that persons with disabilities can be escorted by someone of their choosing, in addition to carrier or terminal staff, or volunteers, through secured areas to boarding areas.

  • Section 3.4 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • Portland International Airport provides information on its Web site about accompanying passengers to and from the gate. The Web site provides information about obtaining a gate pass from the carrier, allowing additional time, and providing government-issued photo identification and flight information to get a pass. 
    • San Francisco International Airport states in the 'Frequently Asked Questions' section of its website that procedures to obtain gate passes vary by airline and that passengers should ask airlines about their policy before heading to the airport. 
    • Los Angeles International Airport states on its website that airlines allow persons with disabilities to be accompanied beyond the passenger screening area and that passengers need to obtain permission from the airline to have someone accompany them to or from the boarding gate. 
    • On its website, Dubai International Airport states that special visitor passes can be issued to those escorting passengers with disabilities to the departures area. 

3.5 Facility and service awareness program

3.5.1 Terminal operators are to have a means available to make terminal accessibility features and services known to travellers.

This allows travellers with disabilities, including passengers who may travel infrequently or are uncomfortable travelling, to be aware of what accessibility features and services are available at terminal facilities prior to travel.

This also allows passengers to familiarize themselves with any required accessibility information independently, prior to travel. In addition, it helps to ensure that if terminal operators expend resources to provide accessible features and services, the intended users will be aware of their existence and be able to make use of them.

  • Section 3.5.1 - Implementation tips

    Note: Means could include, for example, access icons on terminal websites, telephone, brochures, and advance tours.

3.5.2 At a minimum, information on the following features and services are to be made available to the public, where applicable:

  • hours of operation;
  • location of designated parking areas;
  • location of designated drop-off and pick-up areas;
  • passenger assistance information, including telephone numbers for accessibility information;
  • wheelchair or electric cart service;
  • location of designated relieving areas for service animals;
  • accessible inter-terminal transportation;
  • accessible ground transportation;
  • complaint resolution service;
  • escort passes; and
  • any other relevant information.

Terminal operators are reminded that they are also to comply with sections 1.1 and 1.2 of the Communication Code that deal with provision of transportation-related information in multiple formats and website accessibility.

  • Section 3.5.2 - Implementation tips


    • Subsection 1.1 of the Communication Code states that transportation service providers are to develop and follow their own multiple format policies to ensure that information related to the successful execution of a trip is available to travellers in multiple formats.
    • Subsection 1.2 of the Communication Code states that Web sites are to be made accessible to persons with disabilities by following the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

    Best Practices

    • Travellers who will be passing through Montréal-Trudeau airport can use the Airport WayfinderTM to make a virtual visit to the airport in advance of travel, to know what passenger services are available. This is an internet based service which offers virtual tours of airport terminals. It provides information on such topics as departure, arrival, security, customs, and immigration procedures, as well as the directions when making connections. 
    • Thunder Bay International Airports Authority produces a brochure about its accessibility services. The brochure also includes a text map/description of the terminal. The description includes the layout of the terminal, the location of escalators and elevator, airline counters, queuing stanchions, ground transportation, baggage, etc. In addition, the brochure provides an information number for questions related to accessibility. 
    • Vancouver International Airport has a barrier-free access section on its website that includes information about accessibility in its international and domestic terminals and designated parking areas. In addition, it has a brochure that sets out some of the services offered at the airport along with a map. The brochure includes information on volunteers, the location of internet phones, the information counters, audio and visual paging service, accessible washrooms, meeting points, etc.
    • Edmonton International Airport publishes a brochure entitled Access for All. This brochure provides information to passengers to assist them to prepare for travel through the airport. It includes information on how to arrange for transportation to the airport, how to proceed to check-in, how to contact a volunteer, and identifies the location of various things such as the info booth, washrooms and TTY phones. It also addresses the steps in the pre-board screening process. 
    • VIA Rail's website provides comprehensive information for passengers with disabilities who wish to travel with VIA Rail. Among other things, the website includes a list of stations that have wheelchair access, whether by hydraulic lift or platforms; travelling with an escort; occupying more than one seat; travelling with a service animal, and a variety of other subjects. 
    • Halifax International Airport has a program designed to familiarize travellers, including travellers with disabilities, with airport procedures in advance of travel. After being advised of any additional needs a traveller may have, a tour will be tailored to highlight the elements that are relevant to a traveller's disability. The tours include the security screening areas run by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as required. 
    • A number of terminal operators have publicized their accessibility features on Transport Canada's website, "Access to Travel". 
    • Marine Atlantic provides audio tours of its vessels. This consists of an audio description of the layout of the vessel and the services available, including accessibility services. 
    • The Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) website identifies "accessible bus stops" and wheelchair accessible buses. This site includes a link to the TTC online brochure "Easier Access Information" which discusses the accessibility of terminals and carriers, and provides important telephone and TTY numbers, safety tips, and schedule information. 
    • John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City provides a detailed chart on its Web site which sets out what accessibility services and features are available in each of its terminals. This includes detailed physical accessibility features in the terminals such as the height of controls in elevators, the width of walkways, accessible telephones, etc. Refer to for more information.
    • Los Angeles International Airport publishes the Guide for Individuals with Disabilities which is available on its website. This 23-page guide provides information on such things as airport security, drop-off and pick-up areas, parking, lift equipped shuttles from the parking areas to the terminal, ground transportation, airport facilities and services, airline services, information services, general tips and contact information for the airport. 
    • The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas provides information on its Web site about the services for travellers with disabilities that are available in its facility. This includes information on accessible parking, accessible airport shuttles, wheelchair service, escorts, the security screening process, wayfinding in pedestrian walkways, American Sign Language interpreters, jetways and wheelchair lifts for boarding and their dog relieving area. In addition, it provides a text map of the terminal on its Web site which provides a general overview and description of the airport. 
    • Narita International Airport in Japan provides comprehensive information on its Web site about what services and facilities are available to passengers with disabilities. You can find information about tactile flooring, audio guidance on moving walkways, information counters, travelling with guide dogs, baggage services, medical facilities, parking areas for passengers with disabilities, inter-terminal transportation, ground transportation, arrival and departure procedures, and other barrier-free facilities. The Web site also has a barrier-free facility map in both graphic and text form. In addition, the site provides information on facilities available for passengers with specific disabilities, for example, facilities for customers with visual disabilities, customers with walking disabilities, customers with hearing and speech disabilities, etc. 
    • Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam provides an on-line map with the approximate walking times between different parts of the airport. This can assist people in determining whether they will have difficulty walking to different areas of the airport because of the distance or time required. 
    • The Disabled People's Protection Policy of First ScotRail in the United Kingdom lists the 336 stations for which it is responsible, and provides a summary of the facilities currently available at each one. 


    Access Guide Canada, run by the Canadian Abilities Foundation, contains listings from across Canada of accessible services including transportation services and passenger terminals. 


    • Documents such as brochures, Web information, etc., which are developed can also be used to provide information and training to terminal staff or volunteers who interact with the public.
    • Your accessibility advisory committee or working group will be a valuable resource in developing any accessibility brochures or documentation.

Section 4: Considerations for security screening of passengers

This section applies only to security agencies or authorities responsible for pre-board screening of passengers and their belongings, operating in any air, rail or ferry terminal covered by this Code.

Secured screening areas may pose additional challenges for some passengers with disabilities. For example, they may be travelling with service animals, there may be long queues, different search procedures may be necessary, or mobility aids may be too wide for screening devices. It is essential to treat with respect and dignity all persons subject to the screening process.

4.1 An alternative means to the queuing system is to be available to people with disabilities.

  • Section 4.1 - Implementation tips

    Best Practice

    The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), responsible for pre-board screening of passengers and their belongings, has expedited lines for passengers with disabilities at many Canadian airports.

4.2 Both audible and visual means are to be used to communicate with passengers during the screening process.

4.3 Some passengers may not be able to undergo screening using either walkthrough and/or hand-held metal detection equipment. In such cases, screening officers are to offer a physical search in lieu of metal detection screening, with the option of it being performed in a search area which is not open to public viewing.

4.4 All information presented in instructional or briefing videos for the public in a visual format is to be described verbally; and all audible information is to be presented visually.

  • Section 4.4 - Implementation tips

    Best Practices

    • CATSA's instructional videos on the screening process, presented to the public prior to entering security screening areas, are in both audio and visual format.
    • Marine Atlantic's on-board safety videos are captioned. In addition, a braille handout is available, upon request, with the same information contained in the safety video.

4.5 Some assistance with the screening process is to be provided to the passenger upon request. Assistance includes, for example, ensuring a passenger is stable while his cane is processed through an X-ray machine, and picking up a boarding pass on the floor if a passenger drops it and has difficulty picking it up.

4.6 A means is to be available to make accessibility services of security agencies or authorities known to travellers. This allows travellers to be aware of what accessibility services are available prior to travel.

  • Section 4.6 - Implementation tips

    Note: Means of making these services known include, for example, access icons on terminal websites, telephone and brochures.

    Best Practices

    • CATSA has a section on its website which provides information to passengers with disabilities about the screening process. In addition, the website provides information for persons who use medical implants, artificial limbs, and mobility aids. 
    • The United States Transportation Security Administration provides a brochure entitled Screening tips for persons with disabilities. This brochure provides information for passengers with disabilities such as tips before travel, tips for the screening process, tips specific to different types of disabilities such as mobility disabilities, hidden disabilities, oxygen users, etc. 

4.7 A process is to be in place to deal with public concerns or complaints. Such concerns or complaints are to be treated as expeditiously and effectively as possible. This process is to include a designated person or group to deal with accessibility-related concerns or complaints. Websites and written materials are also to provide information about this service.

4.8 Public documents are to be available to travellers in multiple formats.

  • Section 4.8 - Implementation tips


    Subsection 1.1 of the Communication Code contains information on providing documents in multiple formats.

4.9 A means to consult with persons knowledgeable in disability issues is to be in place to deal with accessibility issues as they arise.

Additional references

Other standards that apply to terminals

The Agency's Personnel Training Regulations and Communication Code also address the accessibility of terminals. As such, training and communication issues for terminals are not covered in this Code.

Training is an integral and vital part of most aspects of terminal accessibility and plays a key role in many of the provisions contained within this Code of Practice, including those regarding the operation of specialized equipment such as boarding devices, the provision of passenger assistance, ground transportation, and the security screening process.

Under the Personnel Training Regulations, air, rail and ferry terminal operators, with the exception of small air terminal operators, are required to ensure that their employees and contractors who provide different types of transportation-related services to persons with disabilities are properly trained to do so. Employees and contractors of terminal operators who interact with the public or make decisions respecting the carriage of persons with disabilities have to know the terminal operator's policies and procedures with respect to persons with disabilities. In addition, they have to receive general sensitivity training to be able to identify and respond to the needs of persons with disabilities while they travel.

Communication is also key in terminal accessibility. Without effective communication, including accessible information, passengers may not be aware of what facilities and services are available to them. While effective communication is vital to many aspects of terminal accessibility, it plays a particularly important role in aspects such as ground transportation, passenger assistance, customer service, and provision of information about terminal facilities and services.

The Communication Code applies to airports in the National Airports System and rail and ferry terminals where 10,000 or more passengers embark and disembark annually. The Communication Code includes general provisions for improving access to print, telephone, and Web based information, as well as provisions related to improving communications in terminals including signage, public announcements, public telephones and TTY machines, dispensing machines, automated information kiosks and arrival and departure monitors. Overlapping sections of this Code and the Communication Code have been identified.

About the Agency

Our role in accessible transportation

The Canadian Transportation Agency is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal and economic regulator of the Government of Canada.

Under Canadian legislation, the Agency has the responsibility for ensuring that persons with disabilities obtain access to this country’s federal transportation system by eliminating unnecessary or unjustified barriers. One way to achieve this goal is to develop and administer accessibility standards covering the transportation system under federal jurisdiction. Other ways include resolving disputes through facilitation, mediation or adjudication, and by consulting with stakeholders.

Under subsection 170(1) of the Canada Transportation Act, the Agency may make regulations to eliminate undue obstacles in the transportation network under federal jurisdiction. For example, the Agency may regulate:

  • the design, construction or modification of means of transportation and related facilities and premises and their equipment;
  • signage;
  • the training of personnel interacting with persons with disabilities;
  • the tariffs, rates, fares, charges and terms and conditions of carriage of persons with disabilities; and
  • communication of information for persons with disabilities

How we monitor compliance

The Agency will monitor the progress on the implementation of this Code using a variety of means. For example, the Agency may monitor via site visits, discussions with terminal operators, Web sites, review of contracts, or other methods deemed appropriate to obtain information on compliance by industry. The findings will be provided to the Agency's Accessibility Advisory Committee and results will be made available to the public.

In addition, the Agency will undertake periodic reviews of the Code. Any problems identified will be presented to the Accessibility Advisory Committee for consultation and any proposed amendments will be distributed to stakeholders for comment.

Independent of this process, the Agency will also continue to exercise its authority to deal with individual complaints regarding the accessibility of Canadian air, rail and ferry terminals to determine whether there are undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

How this Code of Practice was developed


This Code has been produced by the Agency in consultation with its Accessibility Advisory Committee and stakeholders. The Committee is made up of representatives of organizations of and for persons with disabilities, representatives of the transportation industry as well as other departments of the Government of Canada. The mandate of the Committee is to provide input toward the development of the Agency's regulations and standards on the accessibility of transportation.

Research and additional resources

Work on a terminal accessibility standard dates back to 1983 when Transport Canada prepared and consulted on barrier free design standards for air terminals. In 1988, the standards work was moved to the jurisdiction of the Agency. In 1991, the focus shifted from regulating terminals and equipment to regulating services for persons with disabilities. In 1997, a report was published which was entitled A Look at Barriers to Communication Facing Persons with Disabilities Who Travel by Air. During consultations on communication barriers, a number of suggestions were made to modify the physical accessibility features of airports to improve the communication of information to travellers with disabilities. No recommendations were made at the time regarding physical features of terminals because the Agency believed that physical features should be dealt with in a comprehensive and global standard on terminal accessibility. The report noted that passengers with disabilities need to have access to information about the accessibility of equipment, accommodations and services available to them.

The Agency's research for this Code included a review of complaints pertaining to terminal accessibility filed with the Agency since 1989. These complaints included issues pertaining to ground transportation, physical accessibility of terminal facilities and boarding devices, all of which are covered in this Code. In addition, the Agency reviewed the National Transportation Agency's report from 1994 on the Inquiry into the Accessibility of Ground Transportation Services at Canadian Airports, and the Canadian Standards Association's 2004 standard, B651, Accessible Design for the Built Environment (barrier free design standard). Additionally, the Agency reviewed the Agency's Air Travel Accessibility Report from May 2001. In the year 2000, the Agency conducted a national survey of persons with disabilities who travelled by air. The Air Travel Accessibility Survey identified the following problems related to the accessibility of airport terminals:

  • 12% of respondents had difficulty to get from the entrance to the check-in counter;
  • 15% of respondents had difficulty accessing the help desk;
  • 14% of respondents had difficulty accessing the baggage retrieval area; and
  • 46% of respondents required an accessible taxi, shuttle, city bus or other mode of transportation to get to or leave the airport and 13% said that ground transportation was not accessible to them.

Universal design

Barrier-free design generally refers to design which incorporates specific elements to make buildings more accessible, focussing on disability and accommodating persons with disabilities in the environment.

In contrast, universal design results in design that is useable by the widest range of users, not just an "average" user. This means that a design is intended for use by all users, not just people with disabilities. For example, a lift at staircases is a barrier-free design solution which provides a means to change levels for people who use wheelchairs. A ramp or an elevator in addition to stairs however allows all people an alternative to using the staircase, including people who use wheelchairs and people with strollers or luggage.

Universal design in terminals benefits all travellers, including people with disabilities, people who are elderly, people travelling with many suitcases, heavy luggage, luggage on wheels, and people travelling with young children in strollers. This may result in an increased use of public transportation as transportation becomes more accessible for all.

See a list of the Principles of Universal Design© and examples of their implementation.


Barrier-free design
refers to design which makes buildings accessible to persons with a range of disabilities.
Ground transportation service providers
include taxis, limousines, motor coaches, shuttle buses and rental vehicle companies that operate from a terminal under contract or permit with the terminal operator.
National Airports System
is comprised of a number of Canadian airports as determined by Transport Canada and amended from time to time, and includes airports serving the national, provincial and territorial capitals.
Terminal operators
include organizations, authorities and operators responsible for the management and operation of air, rail and ferry terminals.
Transportation service providers
include air, rail and ferry carriers that are subject to the Agency's Communication Code.
Universal design
is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design (Ron Mace).
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