Travelling with disabilities to Canada

Updated: Jan 09, 2024 | Tags: Canada Entry Requirements, Flying to Canada

As a traveller with mobility, hearing, visual, or any other form of disability, it’s important to understand that different countries will have different disability standards. Many aren’t in a position to offer wheelchair access or other services that disabled travellers may need. It’s recommended that before traveling you review the kind of disability services offered on airlines and at airports. This guide provides a summary of these services as well as provides information on how you can ask support from airlines.

Traveling to Canada with disabilities requires careful planning and consideration to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Canada is known for its inclusivity and accessibility, offering numerous facilities and services for travellers with disabilities. This comprehensive guide aims to assist you in planning your trip, highlighting essential considerations and tips for a smooth journey.

Travelling with disabilities to Canada
Travelling with disabilities to Canada

Understanding Canadian Accessibility Standards

Canada prioritizes accessibility and has implemented laws and regulations to ensure public spaces and services are accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. This commitment extends to transportation services, accommodations, and tourist attractions. However, the degree of accessibility can vary between different provinces and territories, so it's important to research your specific destination in advance.

Pre-Travel Preparation

Researching Your Destination

Begin by researching your destination's accessibility. Look into the transportation options, accommodation, and tourist attractions you plan to visit. Many places have specific information about accessibility on their websites, or you can contact them directly for more detailed information.

Travel Insurance

Obtaining comprehensive travel insurance that covers your specific needs and any medical equipment is crucial. Ensure that your insurance policy covers medical emergencies, equipment loss or damage, and trip cancellation or interruption.

Medical Preparation

Consult with your healthcare provider before your trip. Ensure you have enough medication and supplies for the duration of your stay, along with a copy of your prescriptions and a medical certificate. It's also advisable to have a summary of your medical history and any specific care instructions.

Accessible Transportation to and within Canada

Air Travel

When booking flights, inform the airline of your specific needs so they can make the necessary arrangements. Canadian airline, such as Air Canada, are required to provide assistance, including boarding and disembarking, transferring between seats, and aid with stowing carry-on items. If you're traveling with a mobility aid or other medical equipment, check the airline's policy regarding this.

Ground Transportation

In Canada, many cities have accessible public transportation systems, including buses, trains, and subways. However, the availability and level of accessibility can vary. For more personalized travel, consider renting an accessible vehicle or using taxi services that offer accessible vehicles.

Choosing Accessible Accommodations

Canada offers a range of accessible accommodation options, from hotels to guest houses and rental properties. When booking your stay, inquire about specific accessibility features, such as wheelchair ramps, accessible bathrooms, and elevators. It's also worth asking about emergency procedures and whether service animals are welcome.

Exploring Canada's Attractions

Tourist Attractions

Canada's major tourist attractions generally offer good accessibility, but it's always best to check in advance. Many places provide accessible tours, priority access, and specialized equipment to enhance the experience for visitors with disabilities.

Outdoor Activities

If you're interested in exploring Canada's natural beauty, many national parks and outdoor sites offer accessible trails and facilities. Parks Canada can provide information about the accessibility of specific parks and outdoor areas.

Navigating Challenges and Emergencies

Language and Communication

English and French are Canada's official languages. If you have communication needs, consider bringing a language translation app or device, especially if you're traveling to predominantly French-speaking regions.

Handling Emergencies

Familiarize yourself with the emergency services in Canada. The general emergency number is 911, and it's accessible for those with hearing or speech impairments. Ensure you know how to explain your location and condition in an emergency.

Legal Rights and Advocacy

Understanding Your Rights

It's important to understand your legal rights as a traveller with disabilities in Canada. The Canadian Human Rights Act and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act are two key legislations that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Seeking Assistance

If you encounter any accessibility barriers or discrimination, reach out to local advocacy groups or legal services. They can provide guidance and support in resolving any issues you may face.

Cultural Considerations and Inclusivity

Canada is a culturally diverse country and is generally very welcoming and inclusive. However, cultural norms and attitudes towards disabilities can vary across different regions and communities. Being aware of and respectful towards these cultural differences can enhance your travel experience.

Canada travel accessibility FAQ

Should speak with my doctor about flying to Canada?

Consult with your physician on whether it’s ideal for you to pass through the metal detectors at the airport. It helps you determine whether to request for a physical search or to have a security officer hand-wand you as an alternative.

What should I do if I am disabled and flying to Canada?

During the flight booking process, ensure that you inform the airline of your needs to guarantee that it will have sufficient time to make available the assistance you require. This is meant to facilitate your comfort during the flight as well as your safety.

What notice do I need to give for taking my medical equipment with me?

Advance arrangements should be made with the airline to have your mobility aids or the battery-operated chair transported. Call the travel agent or the airline beforehand to establish its policy when it comes to allowing disabled passengers to travel with their service animals.

How should my medication be packed?

All medication should be placed in the carry-on luggage to make the screening process simpler. Confirm that all medicine has clear identifiers which will include your full name. Airlines generally tend to exempt prescription medication from the liquid restrictions. You will, however, need to ensure that you present this to the screening officers.

What level of assistance can I receive at the airport?

Passengers that need additional assistance to pass through the pre-board screening checkpoint should contact the airline earlier. Any person that will offer assistance to you ought to obtain an authorization or gate pass from the check-in counter. They will also be expected to undergo the same screening process as all the other travellers.

In case you aren’t in a position to lift the carry-on luggage, make it a point to communicate the same information to the check-in personnel when collecting your boarding pass. Typically, the air carrier staff that are familiar with luggage handling processes should be the ones offering the assistance you require. This is part of the health and safety measures instituted by airlines around the world.

How will I be screened at airport security?

The screening process at the airport will be streamlined if you have documentation supporting your current condition readily available for inspection.

On arrival at the airport, proceed to the Special Needs/ Family security line. The screening officers stationed at these particular lines are properly trained and are capable of providing any assistance you may require. Inform the screening personnel of any medical, mobility, speech, hearing, vision, or other special needs that you may have. You should not hesitate to request assistance from the air carrier regarding your carry-on items and mobility aids as you go through the various checkpoints. When it comes to passengers with special needs, several pre-board screening options have been made readily available. Travellers with disabilities can completely bypass the metal detectors and instead get to receive a full-body scanner or a physical scan using a handheld wand. Alternatively, officers at security screening stations may perform a physical search.

In case you have an implant (such as an insulin pump or a pacemaker) or a disability that you don’t want to become public knowledge, ensure that you request the screening officer to exercise some discretion. Airlines can provide private search rooms within a moment’ notice whenever it becomes necessary to conduct a physical search.

Security personnel will conduct a physical inspection of the mobility scooter or wheelchair. For security purposes, they may also need to undertake explosive trace detection of your cushion. This involves taking some samples from it. If you have trouble getting in and out of your scooter or wheelchair, these inspections can be carried out while you continue to remain seated.


Traveling to Canada with disabilities involves meticulous planning and preparation, but the reward is an enriching experience in one of the world's most accessible and welcoming countries. By researching your destination, understanding your rights, and preparing for various scenarios, you can enjoy all that Canada has to offer. Whether you're exploring vibrant cities or the great outdoors, Canada's commitment to accessibility ensures that the beauty and excitement of the country are open to all.