2023 Accessibility Progress Report

Submitted December 2023


Marine Atlantic continues its efforts to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility, both as a federally regulated transportation service provider and employer. The Crown Corporation published its first Accessibility Plan in December 2022 and continues to work on the initiatives included in the plan as well as other issues raised since its publication. Unless otherwise noted, the information in the plan remains current and accurate.

The following progress report on these activities up to 30 September 2023 is provided here. This cut-off is required to allow for time to complete the compilation of this report, required review processes, as well as printing and publication before the end of year deadline.

Feedback and Alternative Formats

Marine Atlantic welcomes feedback on any accessibility-related items. The Manager of Customer Relationships is the designated position that reviews and responds to accessibility-related feedback on behalf of the Corporation, collaborating with other parts of the organization as required. 

Feedback is accepted through any of the contact methods below. See also Our Feedback Process for more information.


[email protected] 

Web form






Relay Services

Dial 9050 within the app
[email protected] 


Marine Atlantic Inc. 
10 Fort William Place, Suite 302
Baine Johnston Centre
St. John's, NL 
A1C 1K4
Attn. Manager of Customer Relationships

Social Media

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/marineatlanticferries/  
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/MAferries  
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/accounts/login/?next=/maferries/  
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/marineatlantic/  
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/maferries  

This progress report is also available in alternative formats including print, large print, braille, and audio. Requests for one of these alternative formats may be made through the contact information above, as well as online at www.marineatlantic.ca/alternative-format. Alternative formats will be provided as soon as feasible after a request is received – within 15 days for print and large print formats and within 45 days for braille and audio formats.

Provision of CTA Accessibility-Related Regulations

As a federally-regulated marine transportation service provider, Marine Atlantic is subject to the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations from the Government of Canada, which has the goal of removing barriers to transportation for persons with disabilities.

As the Corporation is both a carrier and a terminal operator, sections of the regulations applicable to Marine Atlantic include: 1–25, 28, 31–35, 37–39, 42, 46, 48–61, 134–138, 140, 142–144, 153, 163/164, 178, 212–223, 225–231, 236–238, and 243. Information on the activities and services covered by these sections is presented in the following sections.

Built Environment

The construction of a new administrative building in Port aux Basques continued throughout the year and it is anticipated that employees will move into the new facility in the summer of 2024. Accessibility has been a focus throughout the design and construction phases of this project and this new space will provide significant improvements in accessibility over many current work locations.

Marine Atlantic will also welcome a new five-year charter vessel into service next summer. The vessel is named the Ala’suinu, a Mi’kmaq word for traveller, and will operate on both the Gulf and Argentia routes. It incorporates the latest accessibility standards, as well as other benefits including green ship technology and enhanced maneuvering ability. The Corporation has the option to purchase the vessel at the end of the charter.

Several other changes were made to existing infrastructure to address barriers identified during the year. Door thresholds at the Port aux Basques Terminal were updated to improve access for those who use a wheelchair. Evacuation chairs are now available at all three terminal locations to assist in evacuating persons with mobility issues from the second floor of the terminal buildings in the event of a power loss or emergency where the elevators are not available.

Various accessibility items are included in routine maintenance and facility checks to ensure they are available and in good working order. Work is ongoing to ensure all items are accounted for in these checks and is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2023.

Design and Delivery of Programs and Services

At one office location, an alternative escape route was identified for employees with mobility issues and is practiced during emergency drills. Using an alternative as part of routine exercises helps ensure emergency preparations are accessible to all employees. Ways to share this practice throughout the organization will be investigated over the coming year.

As described in the accessibility plan, work on the proposal for the survey of employees on accessibility topics is ongoing and anticipated to be complete by the end of 2023. The proposal will then be submitted for budgetary consideration and future planning.

Communications, Other Than ICT

A review of Marine Atlantic’s internal policy on Travel-Related Information in Multiple Formats was completed as described in the accessibility plan. The review determined the policy, which was last updated in 2007, was outdated and had effectively been replaced by requirements under the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations. As these requirements are now regulatory, an internal policy adds no further value and is no longer required. The recommendation to remove the policy was given executive approval in 2023.

Marine Atlantic responded to findings by The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) that identified the description of its feedback process lacked clarity. Additional detail was added to the website to better convey the options open for feedback and the request of alternative formats of publications, including the feedback process description, and the anticipated timelines to receive them.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

In the fall of 2022, a project was completed that allows Marine Atlantic to display announcements in a text format on digital screens in public terminal areas simultaneous with the auditory announcements. The text of all announcements continues to be available in accessible formats such as large print or electronic format.

Example of a visual announcement screen:

A sample image of a visual announcement, depicting text on a white background. Text includes instructions for customers to return to their vehicles.

A new platform for the telephone system used by the reservations department is anticipated to be implemented by the end of 2023. This cloud-based phone system will provide the ability for agents to work remotely which could benefit those with accessibility-related needs. Customers also receive direct communications on schedule advisories and other important information on upcoming travel via e-mail and SMS advisories that can be read on the users’ device of choice.

Marine Atlantic responded to findings by the CTA that identified several accessibility issues with the format used to publish its 2022-2025 Accessibility Plan on its website. The findings indicated that the plan document in PDF format was lacking some required accessibility features. A review was completed and determined that moving to a web-based format would best meet the requirements. The transfer of the current PDF content to this format is ongoing and anticipated to be complete by end of 2023. This web-based format will also be used for all future publications.

Published materials are reviewed by Marine Atlantic’s website vendor to ensure WCAG AA compliance. In cooperation with the website vendor, issues identified by the CTA findings were added to automated and manual criteria for new quarterly scans to improve their accuracy. Issues identified by these reviews are addressed as quickly as possible, usually within two months of discovery, further improving the ongoing accessibility of the website.

An option to provide on-demand entertainment content via personal electronic devices on the MV Atlantic Vision and MV Leif Ericson was identified and purchased in 2023. Installation and configuration are complete on the MV Atlantic Vision and anticipated to finish on the MV Leif Ericson by the end of fiscal 2023-24. Similar to the system in place on the MV Highlanders and the MV Blue Puttees, passengers wishing to avail of described video options, or who wish to control the playback in other ways, will be able to view content via their own or a loaned personal electronic device. Work is ongoing to fully implement these options on all vessels and provide how-to documentation for passengers. Work is also continuing with the vendor to improve the accessibility of the in-cabin remote controls for the entertainment system by having options available for tactile features.

Investigation into adaptive technologies to assist persons with disabilities navigate public spaces at Marine Atlantic terminals is ongoing as described in the accessibility plan. Further review is required and the anticipated recommendation for the executive team is now expected by end of fiscal 2023-24.


The arrival of the new shuttle buses described in the accessibility plan was delayed by supply chain issues. Delivery and entry into service is now expected in 2024.

Procurement of Goods, Services, and Facilities

Marine Atlantic has implemented an accessibility form as part of its process for purchases over $50,000. The form is designed to help ensure the purchaser considers any implications for accessibility as part of the purchase process. It reminds the purchaser that a meaningful consideration of accessibility implications must be considered and included in the purchasing specification criteria. It also requires justification if they are not included, such as situations where there is no impact or a more accessible option is not available in the marketplace. This process is intended to help initiate further review and consultation as required. By taking this step, additional attention will be drawn to any opportunities to prevent or remove barriers to accessibility at the purchase stage. The procurement team continues to investigate ways to include this lens on smaller purchases as well.


Marine Atlantic highlighted National AccessAbility Week, May 28-June 3, 2023, with information in its internal newsletter about people on the autism spectrum, including barriers they may face during travel. An employee contest promoting accessibility items in the workplace was also held as were toolbox meetings about assumptions relating to disabilities. The goal is to continue and grow the activities marking this week in future years as an opportunity to highlight accessibility to all employees.

Individual managers and the Occupational Health team continue to deal with requests for individual accommodations in the workplace. Solutions are sought jointly with the employee to remove barriers to employment on a case-by-case basis and are applied more broadly where applicable to increase accessibility for all. The workplace accommodation policy is under review and new processes are anticipated to accompany the updated policy in the coming year.

Limited accessibility of some older office spaces in Port aux Basques continues to present some challenges. It is anticipated that the opening of the new administration building next year will resolve many of these concerns.

Advance employment equity for persons with disabilities continues to be a goal for Marine Atlantic and work continues to identify and remove barriers to employment, career development and promotion of persons with disabilities. The human resources team also aims to increase representation of persons with disabilities throughout the organization by encouraging self-identification through the employment equity survey, as well as ensuring all job postings include a statement affirming the commitment to the principles of equitable employment for all and strongly encouraging applications from persons with disabilities and other identifying groups.


During the period from 1 January to 30 September, 2023, Marine Atlantic received over 300 inquiries and requests related to accessibility through its customer relations department. Information and requests related to travel with an emotional support animal was the most frequent topic at just over half of all contacts. Approximately 77% of these requests were approved while the remaining did not meet Marine Atlantic’s published guidelines and were rejected.

The second most common topic, relating to over 70 contacts, was information and requests related to travel with a service dog. While over half of these requests were approved, many were denied as no documentation of the dog’s training was produced. Marine Atlantic works with passengers to find alternative solutions in these cases but takes seriously its responsibility to ensure animals given full access to its facilities and vessels are properly trained.

The other topic of notable frequency related to cabin accommodations onboard. All vessels have cabins that are designed to be accessible to passengers with mobility needs or travelling with mobility aids including wheelchairs and walkers, and hearing adapted cabins are available on two of the four vessels. Private cabins are a popular choice among many travellers and all accommodation types frequently sell out well in advance of any given sailing, especially in the summer months. It is not always possible to secure these accommodations without significant advance notice. Marine Atlantic works with passengers requesting cabin accommodations for disability purposes to assist with their travel and identify other possible options for them.

Other less frequent topics include requests for assistance during boarding and travel, requests for accessible parking, and inquiries about support person travel and wheelchair availability. All inquiries and requests handled by the customer relations department receive follow-up in the manner indicated as preferred by the customer. It should also be noted that numerous additional inquiries and requests were also received and handled in the moment at reservations, terminals and onboard vessels covering similar topics, with more serious or complicated complaints or requests being referred to customer relations.

Feedback on accessibility topics is also sometimes received via post-travel marketing surveys. During the same period, 11 comments were received in this manner on topics including the desire for more cabins, suggestions for more options in food service to accommodate different dietary requirements, and service dog-related issues. As these surveys are anonymous, no follow up with the submitter is done but the feedback is reviewed regularly to identify potential improvements.


Marine Atlantic maintains an Accessibility and Inclusion Advisory Committee that provides advice and recommendations on a variety of topics related to accessibility. Internal committee members represent various functional areas within organization, while external members of the advisory committee represent various disability-related organizations including CNIB, Guide Dogs of Canada, Canadian Council of the Blind, NL Association of the Deaf, People First NS, Coalition of Persons with Disabilities NL, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, and Spinal Cord Injury NL.

The advisory committee was asked for feedback on a draft of this progress report during a regularly scheduled committee meeting in early November. Comments from external committee members were positive about the report and ongoing activities. After a question about the provision of the document in a larger text format it was confirmed that regular and large print versions would be available as well as other alternative formats.

Suggestions were made to include the former multiple format policy and procurement form as references. It was decided not to include the former policy as it is no longer valid and there was concern it could introduce confusion among passengers and the public around current practices, which align with the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR). The procurement form was also not included at this time as a generic form is currently in use, which is likely to be revised and made more specific to the organization as part of the continued review discussed above. The form can be shared in a future progress report. In the meantime, additional description of the current form’s content was included in the section above to provide more detail.

A suggestion to add an image of the visual announcements being used at the terminals was implemented in the section above. There was also a suggestion that more detail be included about the accessibility features of the new vessel and new administration building. While it was agreed that additional details should be provided, it was felt more appropriate to include in next year’s progress report as both are anticipated to begin service in 2024.