The Importance of Accessibility at VIA Rail
Education and Advocacy VIA Rail Canada President and CEO, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano’s address to the House of Commons Committee about Bill C-81 on October 22, 2018.
Today, one in seven Canadians lives with a disability and many of them function without the resources and services to support it.
If we are to achieve a truly inclusive society, we must provide access to efficient and safe transportation between our nation's cities. VIA Rail is committed to making Canada more accessible for everyone. To this end, not only are we confident that we can meet the requirements of Bill C-81, — the proposed legislation that will ensure a barrier-free Canada — we believe we can exceed them. We have already been working to implement solutions to the issues that the Act seeks to address.
Inclusivity, sustainability and accessibility are central to VIA Rail's mandate to serve Canadians. We have dedicated ourselves to serving more than 4.8 million passengers annually, many of whom have a disability that affects their mobility, vision, or hearing.
To ensure that our services go beyond what is already in place, VIA Rail has invested more than $162 million since 2010 to make our trains and facilities more accessible.
We've anticipated the mobility needs of people with disabilities and increased the seats available to them over the past few years. More than 1,450 accessible spaces have been added on board our trains since 2014 and at present, our capacity to accommodate Canadians with disabilities is already six times greater than it was just a few years ago.
To ensure that our services go beyond what is already in place, VIA Rail has invested more than $162 million since 2010 to make our trains and facilities more accessible, which includes the funding needed to renovate 17 cars to full accessibility. Additionally, we have increased our focus on accessibility by actively consulting with a variety of groups representing people with disabilities on these renovations from day one. Thanks to Budget 2018, we are in the midst of procuring a brand new, fully accessible fleet of trains to better serve the Québec City-Windsor corridor where we currently serve over 4.5 million Canadians each year.
We are also working with the International Union of Railways to devise a way for people with blindness or other sight disabilities to autonomously make their way through our stations, providing more freedom and greater participation in society. In recent years we have instituted policies to allow those supporting people with disabilities to travel free of charge.
VIA Rail aims to go further and become a world leader in accessibility; the introduction of a continuous improvement process to ensure greater accessibility will help us serve all Canadians.
If you'd like to read the full speech, a text version is available on VIA Rail's website.