[nabs-l] More on Eddy Morten and Air Canada

Jedi loneblindjedi at samobile.net
Tue Jun 9 19:16:58 UTC 2009

The very fact that a person with a disability is required to go through 
that trouble to fly is terrible anyway. I wouldn't want the third 
degree from a staff of medical professionals just because i want to 
fly. that's rediculous! My life should not be determined by a staff of 
medical doctors who are as steeped in stereotypes dispite their medical 
knowledge as the rest of the world. No thanks. How far do they want to 
take that, anyway? I could perhaps understand the fitness to fly thing 
if a condition were truly life threatening such as heart conditions or 
recent surgery. But for the most part, a disability doesn't qualify 
under those conditions.

Respectfully Submitted

Original message:
> Since people seem to be interested in this story, I thought I would pass on
> an article from the ARCH Disability Law Centre's latest news letter, which
> came out today.  It's not quite as pithy as a news story, but it is pretty
> informative, and I think most of you will be pleased by the outcome.

> Marc

> Eddy Morten v. Air Canada - Air Canada's Blanket Policy for Deaf-Blind
> Passengers Discriminatory
> By Laurie Letheren, Staff Lawyer

> In its January 26 2009 decision, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal [The
> Tribunal] found that Air Canada's decision that Mr. Eddy Morten who is
> deaf-blind was required to travel with an attendant and that he cover the
> costs of having the attendant fly with him. The Tribunal found that this
> blanket decision did not allow for individual assessments of disabled
> travelers and it had a discriminatory impact on Mr. Morten as a person with
> a disability.

> At the Tribunal hearing Mr. Morten described many examples of how he travels
> independently around the city where he lives.  He is accompanied by his
> guide dog when he travels.  He spoke of the methods that he uses to
> communicate when travelling. For quick communication such as asking for
> directions, Mr. Morten will ask a person to spell the words in block letters
> on his palm. He indicated that people have no trouble understanding very
> quickly how to communicate with him.

> Mr. Morten also explained that he travels with a backpack which has a large
> button indicating that he is deaf-blind. He gave an example of travelling on
> public transit.  If a transit employee approached him to ask if he needed
> help, the transit employee would tap him on the shoulder and put Mr.
> Morten's hand on a badge on the employee's shirt. By this he could identify
> the person as a transit employee. He would let the person know that he is
> not lost by writing O K on a hand.

> If he takes a taxi, his guide dog accompanies him.  Mr. Morten writes out
> the address where he wishes to go and the driver tells him the amount of the
> fare by drawing the number on his palm.

> When Mr. Morten made a reservation with Air Canada he indicated that he was
> deaf-blind.  Once Air Canada had this information about Mr. Morten's
> disability, the reservations attendant decided he needed an attendant to fly
> with him and he would be required to pay the cost of the attendant. The Air
> Canada Meda desk confirmed the reservation attendant's decision. The Meda
> desk is part of Air Canada's reservations department. The practice that is
> to be followed when a person making a reservation indicates that they are a
> person with a disability who may require some accommodations while flying is
> that the Meda desk is to receive information from the passenger and from his
> or her medical provider relating to the accommodations they may need while
> flying. The persons who work on the Meda desk are not medically trained. The
> medical information is to be passed to Air Canada's Occupational Health
> Services department who review the medical information and determine whether
> the passenger can fly on Air Canada with or without conditions. The
> Occupational Health Services is staffed by licensed physicians, occupational
> health nurses and medical officer assistants.

> The Occupational Health Services is to consider whether a person would be
> self-reliant in air travel. This involves considerations of passenger's
> ability to understand emergency announcements, the ability to make his or
> her need for assistance known and the ability of the passenger to move from
> his or her seat should that be necessary in an emergency.

> An Air Canada witness stated that when determining whether a person with a
> disability is self-reliant the tests applied are to determine whether an
> individual would be able to act on emergency instructions. The Air Canada
> witness said that if the individual was not able to see or hear the cabin
> crew to receive information about safety procedures in an emergency
> situation, that individual would be considered non self-reliant for airline
> travel.

> At the Tribunal, Air Canada agreed that the proper procedure was not
> followed when Mr. Morten made his reservation. It was not for the
> reservations department or the Meda desk to decide that Mr. Morten required
> an attendant to fly on Air Canada. The appropriate procedure was to the
> questionnaire used to determine fitness to fly sent to Mr. Morten and his
> doctors and then reviewed by the Occupation Health Services department of
> Air Canada.

> Mr. Morten's physician was not asked to complete the fitness to fly form
> until after Mr. Morten objected to the decision that he had to fly with an
> attendant and the form was not received by Mr. Morten's doctor until a
> couple of weeks before he was to travel. The completed form was not received
> by the Occupation Health Services office before the date that Mr. Morten was
> to fly.

> The Tribunal concluded that the evidence is clear that Air Canada imposed on
> Mr. Morten, as a condition of flying that was not imposed on other
> passengers. Placing this condition of flying on Mr. Morten was directly
> related to his disability and the Tribunal found that this condition imposed
> by Air Canada was discriminatory. Requiring Mr. Morten to fly with an
> attendant affected his freedom to travel and increased his cost of
> travelling.

> Once the Tribunal found that the requirement to fly with an attendant
> discriminated against Mr. Morten they had to consider whether the
> discrimination could be justified.

> In deciding whether Air Canada was justified in imposing the attendant
> requirement the Tribunal had to consider if the purpose of this restriction
> was rationally connected flying; whether the requirement was adopted in the
> good faith belief that it was necessary for passenger safety and whether
> allowing Mr. Morten to travel alone would have imposed undue hardship on Air
> Canada, considering health, safety and cost.

> Air Canada acknowledges that an individual assessment of each passenger's
> needs is not impossible especially since individual assessment is the
> procedure that Air Canada's medical staff uses to determine fitness to fly.

> The Tribunal concluded that Air Canada could not justify the discriminatory
> policy that had been applied when Mr. Morten made his reservation. Air
> Canada had not taken any steps to assess Mr. Morten's individual needs and
> capabilities and because of this failure it could not justify the
> discrimination.  The Tribunal stated "Decisions not to accommodate the needs
> of disabled persons must be founded on their actual capacities and the real
> risks posed thereby, rather than on discriminatory assumptions based on
> stereotypes of disability."

> The Tribunal ordered:
> Air Canada needs to work with the [Canadian Human Rights Commission] and Mr.
> Morten to develop an attendant policy that takes into account the
> communication strategies utilized by people like Mr. Morten, the inherent
> risk posed by passengers with comprised mobility who are currently allowed
> to fly unaccompanied, and the fact that in emergency situations, many
> able-bodied passengers are unable to receive, process and act on
> safety-related emergency instructions.

> It is only after doing this that Air Canada can truly and fully redress the
> discriminatory practice it visited upon Mr. Morten and prevent its
> recurrence.

> The Tribunal also made the following order to address the personal suffering
> that Mr. Morten had experiences as a result of Air Canada's decision:

> Given the impact that this discriminatory practice has had on Mr. Morten's
> sense of accomplishment, his efforts to develop his independence over the
> years and the effects on his physical well-being, we consider that an award
> of $10,000 is an appropriate amount for pain and suffering.

> The full decision of the Tribunal can be read at
> http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/chrt/doc/2009/2009chrt3/2009chrt3.html

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