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Nova Scotia has set a goal to be accessible by 2030 under the Accessibility Act, passed today, April 27.
Nova Scotia is only the third province in Canada to pass accessibility legislation. The passage of Bill 59 will start the process of removing barriers for persons with disabilities.
“We are proud to have worked with people with disabilities and business to take this historic step toward an accessible Nova Scotia,” said Justice Minister Diana Whalen. “This act commits us to a timeline to make the province an accessible place to live, work, learn and play.”
Under the act, government will work with persons with disabilities, and the public and private sectors to create six standards for an accessible Nova Scotia. The standards will be in the areas of goods and services, information and communication, public transportation and transportation infrastructure, employment, education, and the built environment which includes buildings, rights-of-way and outdoor spaces.
The legislation puts in place a new Accessibility Advisory Board. The majority of the board’s members will be persons with disabilities. A new accessibility directorate will be responsible for supporting accessibility initiatives and advancing broader disability-related issues.
While public awareness and support will be essential in encouraging compliance with the standards the act allows for penalties and, for the most serious cases, fines up to $250,000.
“We're very pleased with the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act and commend the government for its leadership,” said Gerry Post, from the Bill 59 Alliance. “The collaborative approach taken in drafting the act has established a wonderful climate for communal partnerships, including the business community, to implement the legislation. We also thank the opposition parties for giving the government the space to engage key stakeholders and for supporting this act.”
Bill 59 was amended after witnesses appeared at the law amendments committee and staff consulted with representatives of persons with disabilities.
Government also invested $1.8 million in the 2017-18 budget to increase provincial ACCESS-Ability grants for community buildings and to launch a new grant program for small businesses to become more accessible.
A copy of the Accessibility Act can be found at nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/bills/bill_59_-_accessibility_act. Accessible versions of government information related to disability in Nova Scotia are available at novascotia.ca/coms/accessibility.