The issue

Despite improvements, transportation services are generally still not fully accessible for Deaf people.

Our position

The special needs of Deaf travellers must be given the same attention and respect as the needs of travellers who have other disabilities.

Many improvements have been made in recent years towards making transportation more accessible to people with disabilities. Attendant fares, kneeling buses, and dedicated seating locations for people who use wheelchairs are some examples.

Unfortunately, the special needs of Deaf people continue to get less attention and less respect than the needs of people with other disabilities.

Not all terminals (airports, train and bus stations, marine facilities) use adequate signage (e.g. electronic display boards) to announce boarding times. Some have the signage but fail to use it properly to provide Deaf travellers with announcements and information. The Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada believes that all transportation terminals should provide and use good visual displays of information and announcements. This includes seemingly “trivial” information such as the menu choices on board; for example, VIA Rail used to provide printed menus to all travellers in business class, but since 2010 it has used exclusively spoken announcements, leaving Deaf travellers uninformed, confused, and embarrassed in trying to find out what food is being offered (some of which s/he may be allergic to or cannot eat for cultural reasons).

In the post-9/11 era, security measures often prove difficult for Deaf travellers. Too many of these measures are verbal/auditory. A Deaf person’s inability to communicate with non-Signing security personnel can lead to them being targeted as suspicious. Suspicion may also be aroused by our alertness to our surroundings, which may strike security personnel as similar to a terrorist’s nervous alertness. The devices we need, such as shake-awake clocks and visual monitors, are sometimes thought to be possible bomb components and are seized by poorly-informed guards. The CAD-ASC certainly does not downplay the need for security vigilance, but the personnel need better training in dealing with Deaf travellers, recognizing our technical devices and our behaviours, and communicating with us.

Usually, safety videos and in-flight entertainment (movies and TV shows) on airplanes are not captioned. The safety video should include open captions, or better yet, it should be made in a style that requires no languages at all, so that every passenger can understand it whether they are deaf or hearing, English or French or any other linguistic group.

Transportation employees (air hostesses, train conductors, etc.) should be trained in how to work with Deaf travellers in all aspects of their travels, especially security and emergency situations. The emergency exits on all kinds of carriers need to have clear, wordless, step-by-step graphics indicating how to use them.

We believe that true equality of accessible transportation means that the Deaf traveller should not have to identify him/herself to transport service personnel as a deaf person in order to make sure adequate transportation information is provided.

The Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada insists that hotels across Canada must provide full and equal accessibility to their Deaf guests. Flashing alarms (particularly door-knockers and fire alarms) must be available at all hotels for Deaf guests. These devices also need to be checked before installation and tested regularly to ensure they are actually in working condition.

The CAD-ASC is a member of the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) Accessibility Advisory Committee. The CTA is a regulatory agency with the authority to require transportation service providers within federal transportation network such as air, rail, and marine to improve accessibility issues. The CTA also monitors the implementation of a code of practices for federal transportation accessibility.


The Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada
606 – 251 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 1X3
(613) 565-2882