Omission by Civil Aviation Authority to consider the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Excerpt from the case note
The Chief Ombudsman received a complaint from Deaf Action NZ (a disability advocacy organisation) about the response of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to its November 2018 request to include New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) captions in airline-safety briefing videos. Deaf Action NZ were concerned that Deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers were finding it increasingly difficult to understand safety messages in airline safety videos, and petitioned the CAA to amend the Civil Aviation Rules.
The CAA is responsible for developing the Civil Aviation Rules that regulate the aviation industry. The Civil Aviation Rules set standards to manage safety risks or address issues within the aviation system. The Ministry of Transport contracts the CAA to develop the Civil Aviation Rules. Ordinary rules are subject to approval by the Minister of Transport. The Civil Aviation Rules provide a combination of prescribed standards and performance-based rules, and include minimum safety standards and procedures that aircraft operators must follow.
Anyone can petition the CAA and raise a regulatory issue with the Civil Aviation Rules. The CAA will then assign the petition to a Policy Adviser who will work alongside technical and operational experts to develop an issues assessment paper, with recommendations, for consideration to the CAA senior review panel (made up of CAA managers). The CAA may take a non-regulatory approach to resolve issues through education, training or the development of guidance material.
Otherwise, the CAA may decide to address the issue by developing an amendment to the Civil Aviation Rules. The CAA’s rule development process has four primary phases: issue assessment, policy investigation, rule development (including public consultation) and rule finalisation (with review by the Ministry of Transport and approval by the Minister).
In response to Deaf Action NZ’s petition, the CAA carried out an ‘issue assessment’ in order to define the problem and identify options for resolution. (This stage of the process can result in regulatory or non-regulatory change.) The CAA senior review panel finalised its decision in August 2019. On balance, the CAA decided not to amend the Civil Aviation Rules. Instead, the CAA decided to develop guidance on improving the accessibility and consistency of safety messages, while also maintaining the ability for operators to deliver these safety messages flexibly. However, work on the guidance had not begun by the time the investigation started in October 2021.