Nova Scotia officials turned out in force at East Preston United Baptist Church on September 18 to announce the official adoption of the Nova Scotia’s first Accessibility Act.
On hand were Premier Stephen McNeil, Community Services Minister Kelly Regan, Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, MLA Keith Colwell, MLA Bill Horne, MLA Kevin Murphy, and HRM Councillor David Hendsbee. They were joined by Gerry Post, the new executive director of the Accessibility Directorate, and disability rights activist and author, Wietske Gradstein.
The new law calls for Nova Scotia to be accessible by 2030, putting in place a process to establish and meet standards for accessibility and to remove and prevent barriers for persons with disabilities.
McNeil spoke with passion about his commitment to improving accessibility. “One of my proudest moments as premier of this province was the day that I saw the Speaker wheel himself to the Speaker’s chair. Kevin represented that day every Nova Scotian with a disability. I sometimes take people on tours of the chamber, and I see the other Nova Scotians who can access that chair now, and I see the expression in their faces, and those who love them. This shouldn’t be a unique experience. Every aspect of our province should be accessible.”
McNeil credited nongovernmental organizations with playing a key role in overcoming what he called “a few bumps in the road” during the debates. “It was our sister organizations that partnered with government to make sure we stand here with a piece of legislation that provides us hope, that provides us with a clear path on how to continue to improve accessibility in our province. It could have gone other ways.”
Minister Regan announced several grants under the Community ACCESS-Ability Program, including one for $4,600 for the East Preston United Baptist Church to build an accessible washroom. Also receiving grants along the Shore were:
--Orenda Canoe Club, Lake Echo, lift and elevator installation, $10,000
--Royal Canadian Legion, Eastern Marine Branch, Gaetz Brook, installation of ramp, $9,864.71
--West Chezzetcook and Grand Desert Recreation Society, Grand Desert, installation of power doors, $4,224
--Atlantic View Elementary School, Lawrencetown, accessible playground, $10,000
In addition to grants for community organizations, the province is also planning a $1 million Small Business ACCESS-Ability Program to help small businesses with accessibility projects.