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December 17, 2018


With a gift from the proceeds of a Human Rights decision, the Friends of the Public Gardens are developing an accessible sensory garden. A committee 3-4 of key individuals is being formed in anticipation of a 2019 launch. If you would like to contribute ideas, please contact Judith Cabrita at the Friends judithcabrita1@gmail.com. Be prepared for an interesting project with history, horticulture, community, design and architecture all rolled into one!


Humphry Repton (21 April 1752 – 24 March 1818) was the last great English landscape designer of the eighteenth century, often regarded as the successor to Capability Brown; he also sowed the seeds of the more intricate and eclectic styles of the 19th century.  In 1811 Repton suffered a serious carriage accident which often left him needing to use a wheelchair for mobility.


Down a small pathway off Brattle Street in Cambridge is the Helen Keller fountain with a small lion with water coming from its mouth. Keller explains the revelation that Anne Sullivan brought to her in The Story of My Life (1924).

Touch & Smell

The Blindengarten in the Bad Homburg Spa Park (Kurpark) in Germany is a "smell and touch" garden comprising eight thematically-planted raised beds (culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, roses, grasses, etc) arranged around a central fountain that can provide acoustic orientation for blind and visually-impaired people.


This sensory garden inside the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, Brazil, is designed to sharpen the senses of touch and smell, and sometimes taste. Visitors with special needs, including the blind and visually impaired, are welcomed by a team of counselors (some of whom are themselves visually challenged). Blindfolded guided tours are also a feature.



Flowers have bright, bold colours to attract birds and insects to them for pollination and seed dispersal, but they are wonderful for humans to look at too! Choose bold leaved and architectural plants, perhaps mulched with different coloured items such as slate, pebbles or shells. Steer clear of recycled coloured glass mulches.

Sunflowers, Helianthus annuus; a bright, bold looking flower that can grow 30 cm in height in a week in ideal conditions.*
Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena; sun-loving, bright blue flowers.*
Chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata ’Chameleon’, three-toned foliage which smells of lemon.
Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’, Beta vulgaris; brightly coloured stems and foliage.*
Heuchera cultivars are available in many vibrant colours and shades from lime green to red and dark purple.


There are so many delicious plants that it’s difficult to choose just a few. Although many of these are used in our cooking, please remember that some children could have allergies to any one of the following:

Spearmint, Mentha spicata; a vigorous growing herb, which tastes great with peas or new potatoes.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis; highly fragrant leaves used to flavour meat and fish. Its scent is wonderful.
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum; in addition to delicious foliage that can be used in salads. This plant also produces pretty pink, mauve or purple flowers.
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus; a colourful salad can be made from the beautiful peppery orange, red or yellow flowers and the foliage.*
Wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca; this plant loves partial sun and fairly damp conditions and produces small, sweet, delicious fruit.*
Pot marigold, Calendula officinalis; gorgeous, sunny flowers, with aromatic, dark green leaves. The petals brighten up any salad.*
Sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum; the Italians wouldn’t consider cooking without this delicious, fresh-tasting herb.*
Vegetables. These are plants too and taste no better than when you grow them yourself. Try carrots, radishes, lettuces, broad beans or peas.*


The aromas given off by flowers are wonderful to enjoy, but the smells have a purpose too. Plant scents attract insects to the flowers for pollination and some smelly leaves deter insects from eating them.

Curry plant, Helichrysum italicum; curry smelling leaves which give off a spicy aroma on a warm, sunny day.
Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia; relaxing, fresh aroma with tiny purple flowers.
Chocolate cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus; beautiful, maroon flowers give off a chocolate/ vanilla scent - a big hit with the kids!
Stocks, these scented summer flowers are very traditional and come in a variety of pink, white & red shades.*
Lemon scented geranium, Pelargonium crispum; crinkly leaves that smell of lemon when rubbed.
Oregano/wild marjoram, Origanum vulgare; the aromatic leaves are delicious dried or fresh in pasta dishes. This plant also produces pretty pink or white flowers in midsummer to early autumn.*


Sit in your garden and listen to all the sounds of nature around you; the bees buzzing, the birds singing, the sounds of the wind rustling through grasses and plants. Add a water feature or wind chimes to enhance the sounds in your garden.

Greater quaking grass, Briza maxima; a grass that rustles in the wind with nodding, lantern-like heads of flowers.
Miscanthus oligostachyus ‘Nanus Variegatus’; pretty bamboo-like foliage, which creates a rustling noise.
Sweetcorn, Zea mays; another rustler and good to eat too!*
A bamboo, Phyllostachys; pretty foliage which whispers in the wind.
Fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides; long, evergreen grass, with bristly spikelets.


Leaves vary between plants, from rough to smooth, furry to spiky. Every texture has a purpose; many plants that are nice to feel have adapted to a specific natural environment in some way. These can be succulents or have hairy leaves to cope with dry conditions. Here are a few plants that are nice to touch.

Lamb’s ears, Stachys byzantina; as its common name suggests, its downy leaves resemble the ears of a lamb.
Silver sage, Salvia argentea; large, silvery –white leaves covered in cotton wool like down.
Jerusalem sage, Phlomis fruticosa; soft, downy leaves and stems with pretty, yellow flowers.

Other Considerations

Can you suggest Nova Scotia Plants for this garden?
Guides (braille, spoken, large print)

December 8, 2018

StatsCan't II

From the NS Accessibility Directorate

If you don't see the chart above, go to the webpage

Nova Scotia always comes out on top in the Canadian Survey on Disability.  In this 5 year survey, the target group is composed of all persons aged 15 and over (as of May 10th 2016, Census Day), and who reported having difficulty "Sometimes", "Often" or "Always" to one of the Activities of Daily Living questions on the 2016 Census of Population long form.

To  some of us, this is an opportunity unfolding.  Nova Scotia has an Accessibility Act which will ensure the complete integration of this large cohort into the life of the province.  Others won't see it that way.  You can almost hear the alarms going off:  "How can we possibly afford to support such a steep rise in the number who may not be able to work?"

This is an irrelevant argument, and forgets to account for all the economic and social benefits of increased access.  

Is there anything that will accurately reflect the dimensions of employment?  Here is a more detailed look at employment - a slightly different age group, settled in employment but from the same dataset:

According to StatsCan, the number of people with disabilities not in the workforce is less than the same number for those without disabilities.  It's a bigger proportion, but slightly smaller in absolute terms.

When those not in the workforce are eliminated for both groups, the unemployment percentage is very similar (10.9%, 6.8%):

In sum, people with disabilities are employed, pay taxes, go to restaurants when possible and are generally hard to distinguish from other Nova Scotians. 


The 'self-reported' angle got me wondering how this survey accounts for people with developmental disabilities.  It turns out that the survey uses one question to identify this category:

1. Has a doctor, psychologist or other health care professional ever said that you had a developmental disability or disorder? This may include Down syndrome, autism, Asperger syndrome, mental impairment due to lack of oxygen at birth, etc.
So does StatsCan call up residents of the Developmental “3” Group Home at CACL in Antigonish and ask this question?

Nope, StatsCan does not survey those living collectively and the survey, with dozens of questions in 45 categories is not geared to those with intellectual disabilities.

Persons living on a First Nations reserve were not included, nor were those living in collective dwellings, such as institutional residences...

This apparently includes many living in homes indirectly financed by Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services like DirectioNS member agencies and l'Arche.  Certainly many hundreds of our most vulnerable Nova Scotians. Adding them to the data might change profiles dramatically.

Although they are theoretically in programs to demonstrate the dignity of work (and they provide employment to staff and administrators), they aren't accorded the dignity of being counted as workers, and we know nothing about their demographics, health, education, work, or income.

Through DCS we spend a lot to help and support these folks.  A survey that doesn't account for such an important cohort is incomplete.  We need to know more, not less

November 28, 2018

Opportunity Knocking

Nova Scotia is fortunate to have a Speaker of the House of Assembly who is dedicated, personable and accomplished.  In addition, he is a symbol of what people with disabilities can aspire to and he's about as smart a person as you'll find.  He looks as good as anybody can in a top hat.

Here is an opportunity for young people to follow in his footsteps (wheeltracks).  A chance to work with Kevin Murphy, a chance to observe the working of government close up, a chance to be a pioneer - what could be more challenging?  I encourage young people with disabilities of all kinds to apply.

Text version follows.

Nova Scotia House of Assembly
Legislative Page Program

Are you a university student or recent graduate with a keen interest in the legislative system and the democratic process?

The following information may be of interest to you.

Each year, the Nova Scotia House of Assembly employs approximately 15 students to serve as Legislative Pages.  Appointment will be for one academic year, with the possibility of a one-year

Legislative Pages hold a time-honoured position in the British parliamentary system. They work for the Speaker of the House of Assembly, who is the presiding Officer of the House of Assembly. The Speaker presides over the proceedings of the Assembly, maintaining order, regulating debate in accordance with the rules and practices of the House, and ensuring that all viewpoints have the
opportunity to be heard. The Speaker also has jurisdiction over all matters concerning Province House and is responsible for day-to-day administration and for ensuring that the legislature runs efficiently.

Legislative Pages provide a variety of services to Members of the Legislative Assembly, legislative and government officials, and the public. Confidentiality, reliability, courteous behaviour, discretion, and the ability to think quickly and make independent decisions are necessary attributes in a page.

Potential Hours of Work

The House meets for four to six weeks in the fall and six to eight weeks in the spring.

  • Monday Occasional, during late afternoon or evening committee meetings.
  • Tuesday 12 noon – 6:30 pm
  • Wednesday 12 noon – 6:30 pm
  • Thursday 12 noon – 6:30 pm
  • Friday 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
  • Additional hours possible when House hours are extended.


Legislative Pages are paid $14.00 per hour.


A uniform is provided to each Legislative Page at the beginning of their employment period and is returned at the end of the program. Pages are expected to supply appropriate footwear.


Legislative Pages begin their training in mid-September. Training consists of four half-day sessions that will orient new pages to their job responsibilities and introduce them to key individuals at the Legislature.

How to Apply

Application to the program consists of a résumé, two letters of reference, a copy of
your latest academic transcript, and a short covering letter explaining how you hope to
benefit from participation in the program.
Mail or drop off your documentation to
Legislative Page Program
House of Assembly Operations
2nd Floor, Province House
1726 Hollis Street
PO Box 1617
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2Y3
Deadline for Applications

The deadline for applications is the last Friday in February.


Interviews for the Legislative Page Program take place at Province House during themonth of March.

For More Information
E-mail inquiries about the program
may be sent to:
Duties of Legislative Pages

Working on the floor of the House of Assembly, Legislative Pages prepare for the daily sittings and provide a range of services to help MLAs do their jobs properly and to facilitate the smooth functioning of the Assembly. Duties can include distributing documents, photocopying, retrieving materials from the Legislative Library, and delivering messages between members. During the Daily
Routine, pages assist with the introduction of bills, resolutions, and petitions. Legislative Pages have extensive contact with the public when handling telephone calls for MLAs, delivering mail and messages, and assisting members of the public.

Rewards of the Program

If you are selected as a Legislative Page you will become a part of the oldest elected assembly and work in the oldest legislative building in Canada. Province House has witnessed many historic events
and continues to do so. Employment as a Legislative Page offers a unique educational opportunity and the chance to experience the legislative process while it happens. Legislative Pages work in an exciting and fast-paced environment. Former pages have stated that this is one of the most enjoyable
aspects of the job. The program provides individuals with the opportunity to improve upon their existing skills of teamwork and organization, which are necessary to successfully perform the assigned tasks.

Another aspect is the working relationships that pages develop during their time at the legislature. From the outset, pages are exposed to a variety of people, from politicians to reporters, government officials, and the general public.  Participants in the Legislative Page Program gain a better understanding of the political process—a practical application of the theory taught in the classroom.

For those interested in pursuing a career in the civil service or even the political arena, this is the perfect chance to experience the process first hand. The program will be of benefit to those who want
to enter such fields as law, teaching, business, or journalism, or to those who are looking for ways to round out their experiences. Legislative Pages complete the program feeling that they have made a contribution to the political process in Nova Scotia.

Basic Requirements

Applicants must
• be enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution or be a recent graduate
• possess an academic average of at least 70%
• be available to work three of four shifts (see Potential Hours of Work) and a minimum of 15 hours per week
• have an interest in the legislative system