Government introduced legislation today, Nov. 2, to help make the province more accessible and reduce barriers for persons with disabilities.
An Act Respecting Accessibility in Nova Scotia is a framework for government to work with communities, businesses and non-profit organizations to create accessibility standards.
“We want to be a province where every Nova Scotian can live, work, learn and play in an environment that is inclusive, welcoming and fulfilling,” said Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard. “Working with people with differing abilities opened my eyes to how far we’ve come, and how much farther we need to go.”
The act complements existing legislation concerning accessibility, such as the Motor Vehicle Act, Building Code Act, Education Act and Human Rights Act. It will replace the Disabled Persons’ Commission Act with the establishment of an accessibility directorate.
“An inclusive and accessible Nova Scotia reflects our greatest values as a province,” said Brian Tapper, chair of the Disabled Persons’ Commission. “It is a province where citizens with disabilities have all the necessary supports.
“The accessibility legislation will focus its efforts on furthering work of the province, where people with disabilities have aids and devices, personal supports and accommodations available.”
“We want legislation that works for everybody,” said Ms. Bernard. “We want to develop standards that will reduce barriers, while not creating unnecessary red tape for the private sector.”
“How we implement accessibility legislation is just as important as why,” said Jordi Morgan, vice-president Atlantic, Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “CFIB is pleased Minister Bernard has asked us to be at the table to ensure we recognize the rights of all Nova Scotians, while at the same time holding government to its commitment to avoid unnecessary or costly red tape for small business owners.”
The act will also establish the Accessibility Advisory Board consisting of 12 voting members. At least half of the board members must be persons with disabilities.
Along with providing the framework and authority to create accessibility standards, the act will:
— ensure that issues related to persons with disabilities are addressed by public sector bodies
— ensure that existing measures, policies, practices and other requirements are reviewed to improve accessibility
— facilitate the implementation and monitoring of, and compliance with, accessibility standards
Developing standards will be done in phases, based on consultation with the disability and business communities. The work is expected to be done over a period of years.