Transport Minister Marc Garneau was mum Thursday on the details surrounding a review into accessible travel in Canada.
“We’re looking at the whole issue of accessibility,” he told reporters on Parliament Hill. “When we have something to say, we’ll say it.”
Garneau was responding to a question on the review from Global News. Recently, people who use motorized wheelchairs have gone public with stories of being told they can’t fly because the cargo doors of certain planes can’t fit their wheelchair.
Their frustration is all too common, according to Ottawa wheelchair technician Alex Lalonde.
“It’s a human rights issue,” he told Global News. “Imagine if you were told you had to fly without your legs.”
Lalonde thinks the federal government should step in and force change.
“All this should be considered in the manufacturing of an airplane and if you’re purchasing an airplane it should definitely be able to accommodate people in electronic wheelchairs,” he said.
Under current federal regulations, planes that hold fewer than 60 passengers don’t have to carry a wheelchair. In addition, the government has to sign off on the design of all planes built in Canada before they enter production.
Bombardier designs some of the planes used by Air Canada and other airlines that don’t have cargo doors that fit power wheelchairs.
They are earlier models of the CRJ series. The company’s Vice President of Marketing for Commercial Aircraft says even those cargo doors are some of the biggest in the industry.
“When designing a plane there is a lot of compromise,” Patrick Baudis said. “You need to realize this is an area which is very complex, we have engine on the area above the cargo door.”
“It’s a pressurized part of the plane as well which means that every change in that part of the plane has to be looked at in a very detailed manner.”
The company’s new C-series planes will have larger cargo doors, along with a bigger washroom, cabin space and entrance to the cabin. New CRJs are also being made with a bigger cabin and wider entrance.
“Accessibility is important,” Baudis said. “We always have passengers in mind when we design aircraft.”
Baudis reiterated the design of all Bombardier’s planes meet federal regulations.
“All the aircraft have to go through that regulation stamp and approval by the authorities,” he said.
And if the government were to change those regulations to require a larger cargo door?
“If the regulation says that we have to have a larger door, we will comply with this.”