PORT HAWKESBURY: As part of Nova Scotia’s commitment to recognize accessibility as a human right, reachAbility hosted an information session helping local businesses develop their disability standards.
Amanda Grinter, program coordinator with reachAbility, said society needs to start replacing the myths of what people with disabilities or people with barriers can or cannot do.
“We want to talk more about facts, rather than our assumptions,” she said. “Those assumptions get in the way of them having an opportunity for them to be equal, and that’s what we want to do, equalize the playing field.”
Nova Scotia is the third province in Canada to adopt accessibility laws and Grinter added about one in four Nova Scotians self-identifies as living with some sort of a disability.
The luncheon event at The Maritime Inn last Tuesday provided education on disability awareness, the importance of hiring people with disabilities, the laws and mandatory regulations that have come to Nova Scotia, but also the government grants and funding that help businesses cover any costs associated with becoming more inclusive.
“I think this is extremely important because once it’s mandatory you’ll be eventually susceptible to fines,” Grinter told The Reporter following the session. “Also, part of the presentation we talk about the untapped workforce; so the people who you’re missing out on, not just customers but potential wonderful employees.”
The untapped workforce are the people who get looked over on jobs; those are people with disabilities, people who require accommodations, or people who self-identify that may need time off work because of mental health issues.
“So when you include that un-tapped workforce, which is 25 per cent of our population, and actually hire them – great things can happen,” Grinter said. “But if we skip over those people because of our assumptions that could leave out really great employees.”
Grinter said the initial step is to change your mind frame of what it actually is to be inaccessible.
Later in the afternoon, the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage announced $580,000 in funding under the Business ACCESS-Ability program to cost share accessibility-related improvements to businesses throughout the province. The 2018-19 grant recipients featured six local businesses from the Strait area.
In Inverness, Route 19 will receive $82,699 and Glenora Distillers 1994 Ltd. has secured $50,000, Dr. John Waters Community Health Centre in Port Hood will gain $27,551, Antigonish’s Corvid Enterprises has been awarded $10,554, Iron Mountain Wilderness Cabins in Whycocomagh will collect $10,000 and Celtic Air Services in Port Hastings will pick up $8,600.
The funding supports improvements such as removing physical barriers, providing accessible communication and information, accessible shuttle transportation along with education and training programs. Businesses can apply for funding up to 66 per cent of a capped amount for each approved project.
The six areas of accessibility that the laws are going to be around are; goods and services, information and communication, public transportation and transportation infrastructure, employment, education and your built environment.
The Business ACCESS-Ability grant program supports government’s efforts to achieve an accessible Nova Scotia by 2030. The government recently released the province’s strategy for accessibility, Access by Design 2030 which identifies priorities to achieve the goals set out in the Accessibility Act.