by Yosie Saint-Cyr
Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act received Royal Assent on April 27, 2017. Nova Scotia becomes the third Canadian province to enact accessibility legislation. The Nova Scotia Accessibility legislation aims to achieve accessibility in the whole province by 2030.
Ontario (2005) and Manitoba (2013) are the first two provinces with in force accessibility legislation. The federal government is working on a national accessibility law to be introduced in Parliament by the end of 2017.
Now that the law is in force, the government will work with persons with disabilities and the public and the private sectors to create six standards for an accessible Nova Scotia. The standards will be in the areas of customer service: 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. A new accessibility directorate will be responsible for supporting accessibility initiatives and advancing broader disability-related issues.
Once the Standards are drafted in phases (the first one expected in a year), they will be ready for public consultation before they come into force.
As indicated by the government, the Act was amended before Royal Assent. Amendments include (read our previous post on the Bill when it was proposed):
- Clarifying the purpose section to make it clearer with stronger language. This includes adding the goal of achieving an accessible Nova Scotia by 2030; using the word “achieve” rather than “improve” accessibility, reflecting concern from people with disabilities and their advocates-it is now similar to legislation in Manitoba and Ontario; specifying six standards, with the ability for the government to add additional standards at a later date; and includes the dual function of the Accessibility Directorate in supporting the accessibility legislation as well as dealing with disability related issues.
- Allowing persons with disabilities to be invited to participate on the Accessibility Advisory Board as non-voting members depending on the standard being developed and will participate on relevant Standard Development Committees.
- Providing clearer definitions of disability to reflect that disabilities may change over time and include learning disability as well as an episodic disability in the definition.
- Modifying the Minister’s Advisory Panel definition for the Built environment standard to “the human-made space in which people live, work, learn, and play and includes buildings, rights-of-way, and outdoor spaces.”
- Clarifying the definition of public bodies and include universities as part of that definition.
- Removing the term “Discretion of the Minister” in some sections of the Act and now reflecting some mandatory action.
- Adding transparency with more documents to be made publicly available.
- Adding that the adoption of the implementation strategy on how to achieve accessibility by 2030 must be established in the first year after the Bill receives Royal Assent.
- Confirming that the economic analysis remains a requirement for determining when standards will be implemented.
- Adding the role of Director of Compliance and Enforcement which replaces the Minister’s involvement, and may review decisions of the Inspector, providing reports to the Minister, Directorate, and Board.
- Providing the Minister with the power to recommend incentive-based measures to help meet or exceed standards.