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Conventional Public Transit

Position Statement on Conventional Public Transit Systems

March 27, 2014


The ability to access conventional public transit systems is essential for Canadians who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted to participate fully in their communities. Without accessible conventional public transit, such individuals are likely to experience reduced independence, higher rates of unemployment, limited recreational opportunities, and increased social isolation. This position statement offers a series of agreed upon recommendations aimed at increasing the accessibility of conventional public transit systems for passengers with vision loss.


There are many facets to public transit systems in large metropolitan centres. Buses, transit stations, heavy and light rail train systems, route planning websites and mobile applications each may present accessibility barriers to persons who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted. Yet people with vision loss are disproportionately more reliant on public transit systems. It is thus crucial to ensure that barriers preventing access to conventional public transit systems are identified and removed.

The right for persons with disabilities to access transportation – including public transportation – is set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which the Canadian Government (with the support of all provinces and territories) ratified in March 2010. Article 9 of the CRPD states, in part, that “States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.”

There are a number of requirements public transit providers must meet in order to ensure that passengers who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted have equal access to the public transportation system. Implementing the following recommendations will result in increased access to public transportation for Canadians experiencing vision loss.


1. Each upcoming bus or train stop must be announced, either by an automated system or the vehicle operator, in a way that is clearly audible throughout the vehicle. If an automated system is used, it should include a public information display (PID) to benefit people with hearing loss.

2. An announcement of the route number and route name or destination of the bus must be made at the front exterior of the bus – preferably adjacent, or in close proximity, to the front door of the bus – for the benefit of boarding passengers.

3. Bus stops located along all routes must be identifiable through tactile walking surface indicators (TWSI’s), and the information presented visually on the bus stop sign, such as stop number and the routes serving that location must be presented in raised letters/numbers as well as in braille, and the printed letters/numbers must meet the recommendations set out in Section 3.3 of the CNIB publication, “Clearing Our Path”.

4. Where a transit provider offers information and services on a website, such as trip planning tools, service disruptions, and route information, the website must comply with the standards set forth in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA conformance and must be tested for accessibility by persons who rely on adaptive software applications.

5. Where a transit provider offers information and services through a mobile application, such as trip-planning tools, service disruptions, and route information, the application(s) must make use of accessibility application programming interfaces (APIs) when available in order to make the information and services offered accessible, and mobile applications must be tested for accessibility by persons who rely on adaptive software applications.

6. Where a transit provider has a pet policy that limits the number of pets on a transit vehicle to a particular number, guide dogs must not be subject to the same restriction.

7. The design of light and heavy rail train stations must comply with the accessible design guidelines outlined in “Clearing Our Path”. In particular, stations must include:

  • tactile walking surface indicators (TWSI) along the platform edges,
  • appropriate lighting,
  • marked paths of travel through open areas using tactile walking surface indicators,
  • audible announcements of incoming trains – including the train’s scheduled destination,
  • Clearly identified and accessible communication methods to summon assistance, and
  • signs that meet the guidelines set out in Section 3.3 of “Clearing Our Path”.

8. Transit systems that include light and/or heavy rail lines should have in place a mechanism whereby people with disabilities can call ahead to receive assistance from transit employees to navigate the rail stations.

9. Where a transit provider uses a fare card system, such as a smart card, transit users who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted must be able to independently load, use, and monitor the validity of their fare card.

10. Transit providers operating in municipalities with a population of 200,000 plus citizens must establish transit accessibility advisory committees and must consult regularly with these committees on new initiatives and significant changes to the existing transit system.

11. Vehicle operators who regularly come into contact with passengers must be given training on how to interact appropriately with and effectively assist passengers with disabilities – including those who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted.

Supporting Organizations: