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February 23, 2018

Fun with Assistive Technology


All is not lost down here in the land of Trump, where I'm avoiding Nova Scotia weather. The local Muscular Dystrophy Association, to which I belong, invited folks to tour a state run Assistive Technology Center. I learned about this program a couple of years ago and have been looking for an opportunity to learn more.  The website is very informative.

The North Carolina Assistive Technology Program (NCATP) is a state and federally funded program that provides assistive technology services statewide to people of all ages and abilities. NCATP leads North Carolina's efforts to carry out the federal Assistive Technology Act of 2004 by providing device demonstration, short-term device loans, and reutilization of assistive technology. Here are the categories of devices and services:

  • Aids for Daily Living
  • Alternative and Augmentative Communication 
  • Vehicle Modifications 
  • Environmental Control 
  • Sensory Aids 
    • Vision
    • Hearing
  • Tablet Access
  • Computer Access
  • Learning, Cognition, and Development 
  • Seating and Mobility 
At 17 facilities, in a large and crowded room, there are hundreds of devices, complex and simple, familiar and strange - all useful and ready to try.  

My favorite is a Gyro Cup, which I could really use.  Even though it looks like me, it's not.  

Keyboards, telephones, software (a big presence), tables, pointing devices, communication schemes, toys - even a robot.

The robot - BEAM - is a mobile telepresence and you can sign up for a live demonstration.  Lynne Deese, who organizes the tours is terrific!

Just in passing, she mentioned "Rehabilitation Engineering" as if everyone should know about it.  These are people who make their living providing assistive technology and helping figure ways to pay for it.  I never heard of it.  There is a professional organization.  I think Nova Scotia has one member.  Let's get more!

Coincidentally, in the same realm, the university of Manitoba is looking to assemble a Nova Scotia focus group to examine strategies and solutions for people who use mobility devices to improve their ability to get into their community in the winter.  Here is their recruiting poster and contact info:

February 21, 2018

Just another token effort?

Halifax wants to know, so we should tell them.  I first published this in 2008:

Fair Government
  • People with disabilities must be equitably represented at all levels in the workforce (stop using privacy as a cover-up!)
  • All public meetings must be held in accessible locations, with appropriate amenities (signers, accessible washrooms) served by scheduled and accessible public transportation.
  • There will be continuing emphasis on HRM website accessibility
  • There will be an accessibility section in the Annual Report, detailing accomplishments
  • HRM sponsored or funded events like sports competitions will be accessible to everyone
  • A higher profile will be given to the HRM Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities
  • Every department will have a person responsible for accessibility who signs off on projects

Barrier Free Infrastructure 

  • The HRM Municipal Service System Guidelines (Redbook) will be continually monitored to include modern standards of accessible design for infrastructure
  • Heritage properties which are public accommodations will have a plan for accessibility
  • HRM will develop plans to eliminate barriers in currently inaccessible public facilities and budget accordingly
  • No more discrimination by building code exemptions

Effective Municipal Services

  • A fully accessible public transportation system, including taxis, must be one of HRM's highest priorities
  • Public Safety and services must pay special attention to the needs of people with disabilities – for example:
    • Include disability considerations in snow removal standards (curb cut clearing, bus platforms, tactile clues)
    • zero tolerance for crimes against disabled people
    • Emergency measures should address planning and protection for disabled people.

February 15, 2018

Human Rights Act, Section 10

Has anyone bothered to read the Human Rights Act?

There is a provision that makes it clear that Human Rights prevail in regulatory matters:
Void regulation

10 (1) Where, in a regulation made pursuant to an enactment, there is a reference to a characteristic referred to in clauses (h) to (v) {gender, race, disability, etc.} of subsection (1) of Section 5 that appears to restrict the rights or privileges of an individual or a class of individuals to whom the reference applies, the reference and all parts of the regulation dependent on the reference are void and of no legal effect.
This seems to relate to a principle in United Kingdom law  that general words in an Act cannot violate fundamental human rights.  It's a good idea that is seldom, if ever considered.

A prime example is the Building Code. There is an entire section, Schedule C, dealing with accessibility requirements. The grandfathering allowances for size, change-of-use, and age of the building contravene Section 10 of the Human Rights Act and are therefore void. 

So all that made up stuff allowing buildings under 100 square meters to be forever inaccessible isn't legal!

Schedule C does, in fact, "restrict the rights or privileges of an individual or a class of individuals to whom the reference applies". The Building Code is a lengthy regulation that references people with disabilities and ends up inventing ways to discriminate against them. I don't see any ambiguity, nor do I see any awareness of Section 10, and certainly no inclination to enforce it.

Other regulations, from minimum wage to day care and education do not pass the requirements of Section 10.  Any regulation allowing paratransit should be scrutinized - Access-a-Bus is a poor substitute for public transportation, and restricts such diverse rights as freedom to live in certain places, health, employment and education.

Why is this important anti-discrimination provision never considered, let alone enforced?  It's a very good principle, and should be carefully observed.

I'm not sure many are aware of Section 10, but we're entitled to know why government just winks at violations.
Gus Reed