Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act has been a hot topic lately at regional recreation meetings, says Yarmouth Recreation director Frank Grant.
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.
Grant says this is a huge task for municipalities and towns to take on, as much of the infrastructure is not accessible to all citizens.
“Obviously, the costs to bring everything up to accessibility standards will be enormous,” he said.
Recreation departments are looking to hire a consultant for facility assessments on the south shore (Yarmouth County, Shelburne County, Queens, and Lunenburg County) to develop a planning tool to help make facilities more accessible for users.
A grant has been provided for this project/study by the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, Sport and Recreation Division.
Grant says they are already accomplishing some “really good things” around making programs accessible to all. These include making fees less of a barrier to participation, the Count Me In summer program for children with disabilities or various struggles, sledge hockey gear and promotion, hippocampe free rental (for disabled persons to experience feeling of bike riding), etc.
Costs to upgrade the Milo Boat Club to make it more accessible will be significant.
The banquet room at the Milo Boat Club is not accessible to all due to the stairs. In order to comply, an elevator would have to be installed or a chair lift added to the stairs.
“Also, we are planning to renovate the washrooms at Milo, so we will be taking accessibility into account with the renovation, with extra-wide doorways, stall widths, safety bar locations, tap heights, etc.,” said Grant.
The government has 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.
For more info on the Accessibility Act:
• Municipalities have one year from April 28 to prepare and make public an accessibility plan.
• The plan must include: measures taken and intended to take to identify, remove and prevent barriers; measures to assess policies, programs, practices and services for their effect on accessibility for persons with disabilities; input from persons with disabilities and representative organizations.