Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter The Introduction of Supplemental Briefing Cards and Other Technologies for Passengers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Issue 2/2010

The Introduction of Supplemental Briefing Cards and Other Technologies for Passengers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Issue 2/2010

by Erin Johnson, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Cabin Safety Standards, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Navigating an airport and travelling on board an aircraft can be very stressful experiences for many, and they are even more so for passengers with a disability. Close your eyes and imagine navigating today’s chaotic world of travel without the use of your sight. Passengers who are blind or visually impaired (i.e. with partial vision) face numerous challenges when travelling by air. Not only do they have to find their way around the airport, but they must also manoeuvre in the tightly enclosed space of an aircraft cabin.

There are a number of new and innovative technologies to help these passengers overcome travel difficulties. The types of technology that help mitigate obstacles for people who are blind or visually impaired vary. Information can be disseminated to these passengers in a non-visual format via use of audible signage, audible information products, and tactile-based information, such as Braille. Types of technology that facilitate this include personal electronic travel/navigation aids (e.g. sonic devices) and GPS-based systems. These aids provide mobility assistance to persons who are blind or visually impaired. More information on this technology is available in the following Transport Canada publication on technologies for travellers with sensory or cognitive disabilities: http://www.tc.gc.ca/innovation/tdc/summary/13200/13247e.htm.

Safety briefings
The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) require that air operators provide an individual safety briefing when the contents of the standard safety briefing are insufficient due to a passenger’s sensory, physical or comprehension limitations, seat orientation or responsibility for another person on board the aircraft. Because of this requirement, a crew member must provide a detailed oral briefing to passengers who are blind or visually impaired. This briefing includes facilitating a tactile familiarization with the equipment that passengers may be required to use; advising them of where to stow their cane, if applicable; advising passengers of the number of seat rows between their seat and the closest exit and also of their alternate exit; providing an explanation of the features and operation of the exits; and, if requested, providing a tactile familiarization of the exit.

Braille supplemental briefing cards
Air operators must also provide each passenger at each passenger seat with a safety features card containing, in pictographic form, the information required by the Commercial Air Service Standards (CASS). However, until now, the regulations did not stipulate a requirement to provide passengers who are blind or visually impaired with a card to meet their needs. Recent amendments to Subpart 705 of the CARs and the accompanying Standards introduced a provision for supplemental briefing cards in Braille and large print.

Section 705.44 of the CARs introduces supplemental briefing cards along with the requirements for their visual display of information in Braille and large print. It requires that air operators provide on board every aircraft two copies of the supplemental briefing card in four formats, which may all be displayed on one or more supplemental briefing cards.

With this initiative, passengers who are blind or visually impaired are now provided the same safety information as all other passengers on board.

Service animals
In addition to travelling with a personal attendant, passengers who are blind or visually impaired may also choose to travel with a service animal. A service animal is sometimes referred to as an “assistance animal”. The majority of service animals are dogs. In some cases, however, other animals—such as monkeys—have been trained to provide services for persons with a disability.

Air operators are required to permit service animals in the passenger cabin of aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats. However, the carriage of a service animal is subject to certain conditions. Firstly, the individual must require the animal for assistance. Secondly, the animal must be certified, in writing, by a professional service animal institution as having been trained to assist a person. Finally, the animal must be properly harnessed in accordance with standards established by a professional service animal institution.

Image of a passenger travelling with a service animal

For more information on the carriage of service animals, please consult Advisory Circular (AC) 700-014 at: www.tc.gc.ca/civilaviation/managementservices/referencecentre/

Things to keep in mind…
It is important to remember that good communication between passengers who are blind or visually impaired and crew members/airline personnel is essential. Good communication addresses the concerns, service, and safety needs of passengers.

It is also important to be aware that the supplemental briefing cards do not replace the requirement for the individual safety briefing. Rather, they are an effective tool for crew members to assist passengers with disabilities. With the advent of supplemental briefing cards and the use of service animals and other innovative technologies for passengers with disabilities, air travel has been made safer, easier and much more enjoyable for persons who are blind or visually impaired.