The first review of the AODA’s Transportation Standards became public in 2018. In this review, the AODA Transportation Standards Development Committee recommends changes to the existing Transportation Standards. In addition, the Committee also recommends action from other sectors of the province, to remove accessibility barriers that impact transportation. This article will discuss the Committee’s recommendations for service animals on public transit.
Service Animals on Public Transit
Some passengers on public transit travel with service animals, typically dogs, trained to help people with disabilities maintain independence. For example, tasks service animals perform include:
• Guiding a blind or visually impaired handler around obstacles
• Alerting a handler with diabetes about low blood sugar levels
• Protecting a handler with epilepsy during seizures
• Calming a handler with autism in an environment with too much sensory stimulation
• Retrieving out-of-reach objects for a handler with a physical disability
• Alerting a handler who is deaf or hard of hearing about sounds
Under the current Transportation Standards, public transit providers must allow all service-animal handlers to keep their animals with them while travelling. However, the Committee states that many public transit workers are not compliant with this requirement. For example, the Committee reports that many drivers refuse to transport service animals. Alternatively, some taxi-cab drivers have placed service animals in the trunks of vehicles, rather than near their handlers. Therefore, the Committee recommends increased education for drivers about the legal requirement to transport service animals.
In addition, the Committee notes that service animals may need to relieve themselves during long trips, or while their handlers wait in buildings, such as train stations. Caring for their animals may require passengers to temporarily leave a vehicle or building when they would not normally be allowed to do so. Therefore, the Committee recommends a new requirement in the Transportation Standards allowing passengers to temporarily leave stations with their service animals. This update would require public transit companies not to charge service-handlers an additional fare when they re-enter a station after caring for their animals.