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August 14, 2013

A foot in the door

Last night the news had a segment on the latest exoskeleton from Ekso Technologies.  There was the technology-smitten reporter, the paraplegic person who took a step, the outtake from Elysium, the sympathetic manufacturer promising much lower prices than the current $110,000 per.  People without disabilities still don't get it.

A far more significant development occurred today in Nova Scotia.  The internal operations arm of the legislature, the House of Assembly Management Commission, made a rule requiring  that elected representatives have barrier-free offices in their home districts.  It passed unanimously.

This simple regulation marks a sea change in approach for the provincial government:

  • People with disabilities are acknowledged to have the same rights as others
  • Written rules, rather than promises, are the solution
  • All parties agree on the principle, the problem and the solution
  • The initiative came from the community of Nova Scotians with disabilities
Let's hope that the lesson is not lost and that it sets a precedent.  In order for Nova Scotians with disabilities to become full citizens, they need equal access to all parts of their world.  The UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities finally has some promise:

Article 9 - Accessibility1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:
  1. Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces;
  1. Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.
We salute the good work of the HAMC and the leadership of Speaker Gosse!

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