Public transportation: What you need to know

The Alberta Human Rights Act protects members of the public against discrimination when they use public transportation. The AHR Act does not protect against poor treatment or bad service, unless it flows from a protected ground of discrimination such as physical disability or race. Age is not a protected ground in the area of goods, services, accommodation or facilities. You can read more about age as a protected ground and about all protected areas and grounds.

Examples of discrimination covered by the AHR Act:

  • denial of service to individuals using a guide or service dog (discrimination based on physical or mental disability)
  • denial of service to individuals using wheelchairs (physical disability)
  • lack of physical access for individuals with mobility disabilities
  • denial of service to individuals who are physically disabled as a result of obesity
  • denial of service based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, ancestry, or any other protected ground, except age
  • request for payment in advance on the basis of a customer's race, ancestry or colour

Examples of issues not covered by the AHR Act:

  • denial of service to individuals who are intoxicated and disorderly
  • denial of service to individuals who are abusive to those providing the service
  • denial of service to individuals who refuse to pay or have failed to pay in the past
  • denial of service to individuals who want to travel with an animal, unless the animal is a guide dog or other service animal (as opposed to a pet)

Public transportation providers are responsible for ensuring that their services do not discriminate against members of the public based on any of the protected grounds. To meet this obligation, public transportation providers need to review their operations regularly to identify and eliminate any potentially discriminatory aspects of their service. For example, a transit operator might survey its security staff to find out whether they are aware of their responsibility to treat all members of the public equally and not single out individuals based on a protected ground like race or ancestry, and educate staff if need be.

If a transportation service has a requirement that would discriminate against people based on a protected ground like physical disability or religious beliefs, it has a duty to accommodate affected individuals to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation means making changes to any rules, standards, policies or physical environments to ensure that they don't have a negative effect on anyone based on any protected ground. For example, a taxi service that does not have any wheelchair-accessible taxis discriminates against individuals with physical disabilities who require the use of a wheelchair. The taxi operator could accommodate customers in wheelchairs by contracting with another taxi service with wheelchair-accessible cars to provide wheelchair-accessible service.

Individuals who require accommodation based on a protected ground have a responsibility to inform the transportation provider of their needs. Doing so gives the service provider the opportunity to make any changes necessary to accommodate the individual making the request, as well as anyone else with the same or similar needs. For more information about the duty to accommodate, see the Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.

In some circumstances, discrimination may be reasonable and justifiable. A transportation service provider may refuse to offer services to some people based on one or more protected characteristics if providing the service would be an undue hardship. For example, a taxi operator might reasonably refuse to deliver a passenger in a wheelchair to an address where unloading would be physically unsafe. For further information on when discrimination might be reasonable and justifiable, contact the Commission.

Revised: February 1, 2010

 

 


The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.

Due to confidentiality concerns, the Commission cannot reply to complaints of discrimination by email. Please contact the Commission by phone or regular mail if you have a specific complaint.

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