The Chief Ombudsman has found that the Civil Aviation Authority’s decision-making processes were unreasonable when it decided not to amend the rules to include New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) in airline safety briefing videos.
Peter Boshier began investigating after receiving a complaint from Deaf Action NZ about the response the CAA gave to its 2018 petition, calling for NZSL to be included.
Deaf Action NZ said it was important to have NZSL because Deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers were finding it increasingly difficult to understand safety messages in airline safety videos.
Mr Boshier says under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disability Convention), public sector agencies are required to protect and promote the rights of disabled people and to prevent breaches of their rights.
“Agencies must provide reasonable accommodation for disabled people and take appropriate measures to ensure disabled people have access to good information.”
CAA advised that it didn’t specifically consider the Disability Convention as part of its initial assessment of Deaf Action NZ’s petition, nor did it consider consulting Deaf Action NZ.
“Although part of the Civil Aviation Act focuses on safety and security, there was nothing precluding the CAA from considering the Disability Convention when assessing an issue,” Mr Boshier says.
“I would have expected, as a minimum, that the CAA explicitly considered the convention at the time of its initial assessment.
“The Disability Convention also states that in decision-making processes concerning issues relating to disabled people, parties should closely consult and actively involve disabled people or their representative organisations.”
Mr Boshier considered it was unreasonable for the CAA not to have explicitly taken this into account at the time of its initial assessment. He also concluded that it was unreasonable for the CAA not to consult Deaf Action NZ or other relevant disability groups.
“CAA’s initial assessment would have benefited from a richer understanding of disability issues.”
Mr Boshier said that on balance, it wasn’t necessary to recommend that the CAA remake its decision. This was due to a number factors including that he accepted CAA’s assurance that it would consult relevant disability groups as part of developing its future guidance to operators.
He recommended that the CAA apologise to Deaf Action NZ and that it prioritise the development of guidance for the airline industry to ensure safety messages are effective and accessible.
The CAA accepted the recommendations and apologised to Deaf Action NZ. CAA has recently confirmed that work on the guidance was well advanced.