Accessibility awareness needs work even for N.S. gov't, says bureaucrat
Gerry Post, who uses a wheelchair, can't access Access NS office because location is 'not safe'
It may be called Access Nova Scotia but the Bayers Lake office in Halifax is inaccessible to Gerry Post, the government official helping draft a plan to make the province easier to navigate for people with disabilities.
Post, who uses a wheelchair, told a legislature committee Tuesday that decisions by government, individuals and corporations should be viewed through "an accessibility lens."
He cited the Access Nova Scotia office — where citizens can do everything from register a vehicle to obtain a marriage licence — as an example of a missed opportunity.
"I can't get to it this time of year," Post told the committee. "I don't have a car. I can go by transit, but there's four lanes of traffic, no sidewalk and a barrier. It's not safe."
New standards in the works
As executive director of Nova Scotia's accessibility directorate, Post has taken on the job of helping come up with accessibility standards that will apply not only to buildings, but education, transportation and employment.
The goal, as outlined in the provincial Accessibility Act, is to "achieve accessibility by preventing and removing barriers that disable people."
Post told the committee those standards should be ready in another year or two, and will be modelled after those developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation, which has created a certification program for accessibility.
He called those standards "way beyond the building code."
"We can't rush that," said Post. "It needs the involvement of the business community, the architectural community, the recreational community — so there's a lot of players that need to be involved for us to get it right."
Post was called as a witness before the legislature's standing committee on community services as part of a presentation on the government's Business Access-Ability program.
Dawn Stegen, director of regional services at the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, told the committee she expects the entire $1-million budget devoted to helping businesses become more accessible to be spent this year.
The department has already announced grants to 24 businesses worth a total of $580,000.
She said other grants are in the works.