Historic property designation allows owners to apply for grants up to $10,000 for exterior preservation work and a rebate on part of the HST. Owners love this program, and it is popularly misunderstood to preclude such additions as ramps. So unless someone is paying attention, your own tax dollars can be used to exclude you from property.
Persons facing barriers are very used to exchanges like this:
"I'm looking for the ramp"
"I'm sorry, we don't have one. We're a historic building, you understand...."
Actually, we don't understand. You seldom see historic buildings that have not been retrofitted with electricity, flush toilets and telephones. The answer really is:
"Our building's appearance and my comfort are way more important than any rights you might think you have. We have a double standard and you better get used to it!"
The HRM Heritage Property Program Planning and Development Services DESIGN GUIDELINES simply say:
All exterior alterations to a municipal registered heritage property (ranging from, but not limited to, paint color, window replacements, re-roofing, and signage) must be reviewed by the Heritage Office.
I know I feel better that paint color is more important than I.
The word interior does not appear in Nova Scotia's Heritage Property Act. Should you be so lucky as to own a heritage property, you receive a Notice of Registration of Property as a Provincial Heritage Property which reads in part:
The effect of registration in the Provincial Registry of Heritage Property is that no demolition or substantial alteration in exterior appearance of the property may be undertaken from the date of registration without the approval of the Governor in Council.
So when someone says to you that they don't have an elevator or Braille signs because they're in a historic building, they are giving you a load of hooey. Don't let them get away with it!
Halifax is a town with hundreds of antique buildings whose charms are advertised to tourists and residents alike. Just like they do in London, England, for example. Here is a statement on Historic buildings in England:
It is important in principle that disabled people should have dignified access to and within historic buildings. If it is treated as part of an integrated review of access arrangements for all visitors or users, and a flexible and pragmatic approach taken, it should normally be possible to plan suitable access for disabled people without compromising a building’s special interest. Alternative routes or reorganising the use of space may achieve the desired result without the need for damaging alterations. Download the full document
And in the US:
Many city programs, services, and activities are conducted in buildings that are historically significant. In addition, many cities operate historic preservation programs at historic sites for educational and cultural purposes. If no accessibility changes are made at these facilities and locations, individuals with disabilities are unable to visit and participate in the programs offered. For example, people who use wheelchairs would not be able to reach the courtroom or clerk's office located in a historic nineteenth century courthouse if no physical changes are made to achieve access. Full text here
So what's so special about you, Halifax?
Do you agree? Give the Minister a piece of your mind! email@example.com