StFX associate professor reviewing Accessibility Act

    ANTIGONISH: Consultations for the inaugural independent review of the Accessibility Act launched last month in an attempt to build a more equitable and accessible province by 2030.

    On April 21, it was announced Katie Aubrecht, an associate professor in the sociology department at StFX University and the director of its spatializing care, intersectional disability studies lab is leading the review.

    Aubrecht, who is originally from Antigonish, has been working in accessibility for over 10 years and holds a Canada research chair in health equity and social justice, advised Nova Scotia is only one-of-three provinces, that has provincial accessibility legislation.

    “The legislation here in Nova Scotia, which was really the result of a group of community activists, they really wanted to move forward with a shift in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities and supporting people in fully participating in their community and society,” Aubrecht told The Reporter. “The review itself was something that was built right into the legislation, and was mandated by the act within the first four years to do a review of not only the act, but the ways it gets put into practice.”

    According to the associate professor, she will be consulting with people with disabilities, organizations that serve them, and others affected by the legislation to learn about progress being made to make the province accessible and then submit a report with recommendations to the Minister of Justice, who has 30 days to table the report in the House of Assembly.

    “We want to hear about promising practices, and where improvements can be made,” Aubrecht said. “This is my passion.”

    Aubrecht said the first phase was familiarizing herself with the issues, which composed of a document review, a policy scan and a media scan, to understand the issues.

    “We just launched the engagement phase, this is where we really are reaching out to hear from people living in Nova Scotia, people who’re working directly with the act, working groups that are developing standards,” Aubrecht said. “We know one-in-five Nova Scotians self-identify as a person with a disability or is a caregiver.”

    Aubrecht’s review will focus on the standards development process, identifying possible changes to the act, and the implementation of the plan.

    “We’re at a point where we can shape the direction of the work,” she said. “We’ve got a big job ahead of us, but we’re really eager to get the word out there.”

    The review of the Accessibility Act, which was originally passed in 2017, is expected to take eight to 10 months to complete, according to the province, with the final report being made available to the public.

    When asked why should someone should participate in the review, Aubrecht indicated while there’s been lots of opportunity to engage, and what makes this process different is the review of the act.

    “What’s working, what’s not working and what do we need to do differently in order to improve things, all the information that we collect is 100 per cent confidential,” she said. “The recommendations that come from the conversations that come from Nova Scotians will be a public marker to hold accountability.”

    Aubrecht advised Nova Scotia is a leader, this process will determine what kind of leader it will be.

    More information about the various ways to participate in the review is available at: https://nsaccessreview.ca, by emailing: nsreview@stfx.ca, by calling 902-867-4845, and people can also check them out on their NSAccessActReview Facebook page.