A Nova Scotia group fighting for better access for people with disabilities is celebrating after politicians passed new rules Wednesday requiring MLAs to make constituency offices more accessible.

mi-ns-mla-disabled-office

MLAs will soon be required to have wheelchair accessible offices. Members of the James McGregor Stewart Society group celebrate the victory in the Red Room. CBC

 

A legislature committee took just 90 seconds to change the rules making ramps and handholds mandatory in all representatives’ offices.

New MLAs will be required to have wheelchair accessible offices in a year and sitting politicians will have three years to comply.

The Speaker of the legislature, Gordie Gosse, said doesn't think the requirement will cost taxpayers extra in office leases.

"Each constituency is different and there are 51 new offices that are going to be here. Some MLAs are in leases. Some MLAs are tied to their leases, so that's why we've given that time but I do feel in my heart that most of the MLAs will comply by this in a lot shorter than the 36 months that's in the regulations," he said.

'This is a very important first step. We have to get in the front door, so to speak.' —Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy, who led the charge on behalf of the James McGregor Stewart Society, said Nova Scotia needs a disabilities act modelled after a similar law in the United States.

The American law prohibits discrimination and guarantees people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. It applies to businesses, as well as all levels of government.

"Well I believe this is one small step, very important step, but one small step towards greater change and more positive participation of people with disabilities in the system and in our province as a whole," Murphy said.

"This is a very important first step. We have to get in the front door, so to speak."