Any new sit-down restaurants and cafés starting up in Nova Scotia will need an accessible washroom, entrances and pathways to meet food safety requirements.
It's part of the province's commitment to being fully accessible by 2030, according to a news release.
In 2018, a group of wheelchair users argued equal access to restaurants and restaurant washrooms is a human rights issue.
A human rights board of inquiry ruled in their favour, saying the province discriminated against wheelchair users by not enforcing a regulation requiring restaurants to have accessible washrooms.
Paul Vienneau, an accessibility advocate in Halifax and one of the five people involved in the inquiry, said the new requirements are "a really great start."
Advocates, building owners, restaurant industry representatives and various government departments took part in the restorative process that started in 2019.
"If we would have just pushed ahead without getting these industries and departments on board with us, they would have fought us all the way," Vienneau said.
The changes apply to any new eateries opening in a new space, or in spaces that haven't been used as a restaurant in the last 12 months. They may also apply to restaurants undergoing major renovations, the release said.
"This, with Bill 59 [the Accessibility Act], ... will basically change the face of Nova Scotia for elderly and disabled citizens for years to come," Vienneau said.
Vienneau said he hopes these changes will shape the way the government deals with human rights complaints, and help build relationships between the disabled community and restaurants and businesses that are not yet accessible.
"I want them to change how they look at us so that everything is not a fight," he said. "Asking for your rights is not a challenge of your authority, it's people seeking their rights which is a very reasonable thing."
The new requirements, along with updated Nova Scotia Building Code requirements around accessibility, will come into effect Oct. 31.
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