Advocate pleased with passing of Accessibility Act
Marcie Shwery-Stanley has been waiting for this moment for more than 36 years.
The longtime Cape Breton advocate for people with disabilities was happy with the passing of the Accessibility Act on Thursday. The passage of Bill 59 will begin the process of removing barriers for people with disabilities in Nova Scotia.
“I’ve been an advocate for 36 years and it was a very emotional time,” said Shwery-Stanley. “There are people who have spent hours and days and months advocating and now we have this act, which is going to be so important and impact everybody.
“It’s amazing we all worked together, government, the disability community, everyone worked together to make this happen and it’s a major step forward,” she said. “I think it’s a historic day for Nova Scotians.”
Under the act, the government will work with people with disabilities, as well as the public and private sectors, to create six standards for an accessible Nova Scotia.
The standards will include the areas of goods and services, information and communication, public transportation and transportation infrastructure, education, employment, buildings and outdoor spaces.
Nova Scotia becomes the third province in Canada to pass accessibility legislation, following Manitoba and Ontario. The province’s goal is to be accessible by 2030 under the accessibility act.
“There are probably five or six people that I was very close with advocating and they have all died, so they must be up there in heaven and smiling down on us,” said an emotional Shwery-Stanley. “I’m really looking forward to the days ahead, it’s going to take a while, but as the saying goes, the most important step is the first step.”
Public awareness and support will be essential in encouraging compliance with the standards. The act does allow penalties and for the most serious cases fines are as high as $250,000.
The government has set aside $1.8 million in the 2017-18 budget to help increase provincial access-ability grants for community buildings and to also launch a new grant program to help small businesses to become more accessible for those they serve.
For more information on the accessibility act, visit www.novascotia.ca/coms/accessibility.