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March 22, 2014

My problem or yours?

This is what the Liberal Party promised in their platform before the October election:

  • Create a more accessible Nova Scotia for persons with disabilities by appointing an Accessibility Advisory Committee with a mandate and strict timeline to develop accessibility legislation for Nova Scotia.
It's been met with eager anticipation by many, including me.  I've been thinking a lot about what it means to me.  Can I finally take the #5 bus?  Can I be certain that the washroom at the Alexander Graham Bell museum is wheelchair accessible?  Will building inspectors be accountable?

Others have different priorities.  Can I get a job?  Will I get paid the same as the next person?  Can I find a place to live?

We're thinking "Finally!"

But hold on.  Lots of Nova Scotians need jobs.  Lots of Nova Scotians need transportation, particularly in rural areas.  Lots of Nova Scotians get less-than-equal pay.  What about them?

Is this really about me, or is it about Nova Scotia?  By putting in the little phrase highlighted in yellow, the lack of access becomes my issue.  Take it out, and the lack of access, (in the sense of participation), applies to everybody.

This is very subtle, but it's really important.  Is this legislation about me and my problems, or is it about fairness in Nova Scotia?  

We need to be very clear that this legislation is to make Nova Scotia a better place by extending the rights and privileges of civil society to everyone.  Think of it as your gift to Nova Scotia, not the other way around.  

Although a possible name of the legislation - Equal Opportunity for Nova Scotians - came in dead last in our recent poll, it's still my choice.  Nova Scotia has a chance to affirm that everyone can prosper here, including "people with disabilities".

Do it for your sake Nova Scotia, not mine.

Gus Reed

1 comment:

Gerry Post said...

Agree 100%

For years the disabled community has promoted inclusiveness as one of the reasons for needing a strong policy, legislative and action program commitment from Government to ensure accessibility for all and that barriers be eliminated. To label the legislation exclusively for people with disability is a mistake. It not only goes against the principle were trying to accomplish, it also disenfranches those outside of the disabled community; we're going to need their political support to remove the barriers!

We're just at the starting gate for change. Drafting the Legislation is one thing, implementing it is another 'kettle of fish', which has been a struggle in Ontario. This will require broad based support way beyond the borders of our disabled community. To be successful we must be inclusive! For example, we must engage and include our Seniors and others and build a constituency that has a strong political base to effect the changes that are required, particularly when it comes to allocating budgets to make things happen that are promissed in the Legislation.