Disabled Nova Scotians, advocates critical of Accessibility Act

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'I continue to be an advocate,' says activist tapped to implement Accessibility Act

'I continue to be an advocate,' says activist tapped to implement Accessibility Act

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil's Liberal government received some credit last fall for temporarily shelving the proposed Accessibility Act, but on Thursday Bill 59 got a rough ride from disabled Nova Scotians and those who advocate on their behalf.

The legislation was delayed last fall after heavy criticism from the groups it was supposed to help, and is currently before the legislature's law amendments committee in Halifax, where about two dozen people spoke today.

As they did last fall, many implored the government to go ahead with plans to enshrine in law the rights of people with a disability.

But most felt the current draft of the proposed law fell far short of what was needed to properly protect those rights.

'Watered down'

Dorothy Kitchen has spent decades fighting for the rights of her disabled daughter Penny, who died just one month ago. She told the committee how this proposed law seemed to follow a familiar path when it comes to disability rights.

"As soon as it comes for implementing anything and for government to spend money, it's no longer a priority," she told the committee. "It gets watered down till it doesn't resemble anything we had worked on."

Marcie Shwery-Stanley travelled from Sydney to have her say. She's been a member of the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission, which has called for changes to strengthen the proposed law.

"Bill 59 is a critical piece of legislation that I fully endorse," she told the committee. "These changes in no way take away from how vital this legislation is to the future of Nova Scotia."

'I get so angry'

Barry Abbott said no one should look at the proposed law as conferring spacial status on those with a disability.

"We're aren't asking for special treatment, just the same treatment that everybody else gets, and I get so angry when I hear this special treatment crap. I should just grab somebody by the throat and choke them because it's not what we're asking for."

Gerry Post scoffed at those worried about the potential cost of retrofitting their businesses to make them more accessible. 

"Alarmists say that that this act will put them out of business," he told the committee. "This is furthest from the truth. We see this as act as driving more customers through doors of business."

'Please don't let us down'

As she did last fall when she last appeared before the all-party committee, Patricia Gates called on the province to help those like her who need adaptive devices. She held a magnifying glass before her and explained that the simple but vital aid no longer worked for her and that she needed a more powerful magnifier, which would cost her $75.

She said the province should help defray that cost and ended with a simple plea.

"If there's one thing I want to say to this government please, please don't let us down."

The law amendments committee will sit again Friday to hear more presenters.