In late April 2017, the Nova Scotia government passed its Accessibility Act with a goal of creating a more accessible Nova Scotia for people who are physically or intellectually disabled. The Act is a piece of enabling legislation which provides the authority and framework for the development of standards at a later date. These standards will be added as needed, following stakeholder consultation.

In conversations with the Department of Justice, it is likely that standards will be developed for government before attention is turned to the private sector. Therefore, it is likely that over the next two to three years, the Accessibility Act will have limited to no impact on business.

Background:

  • The Accessibility Act sets a goal of achieving an accessible Nova Scotia by 2030.
  • Standards related to the Act will be developed in the areas including:

                       - The delivery and receipt of goods and services
                       - Information and communication;
                       - Public transportation and transportation infrastructure;
                       - Employment;
                       - The Built Environment;
                       - Education, and
                       - An activity or undertaking prescribed by regulation

  • There will be a full consultative process as each standard is developed. It is expected that consultation for each standard could take an average of two years to complete.
  • The implementation of standards will include reasonable and fair timelines for compliance, and exemptions may be applied.
  • A new position of Director of Compliance and Enforcement will be created, removing ministerial involvement in operations.
  • The Director of Compliance and Enforcement will report to the Minister of Justice.
  • Inspections will be done on a risk based model not a complaint based model.
  • The Minister could recommend that government implement incentive-based measures to encourage organizations to meet or exceed accessibility standards.
  • The Accessibility Directorate will develop awareness, education and supportive tools and work closely with those impacted.
  • Fines of $250,000 could be levied on those who do not comply with standards.
  • People with learning disabilities are also included in the new law.
  • A 12-member Accessibility Advisory Board will be created to work with stakeholders and set / enforce standards related to accessibility. The Minister of Justice can overrule the Advisory Board.
  • The Accessibility Advisory Board must include seven members with disabilities (a majority).

Representatives from the disabled community in Nova Scotia have spoken favorably about this legislation. RCC spoke in generally supportive terms of the Bill, stating that retailers continue to make efforts to ensure a welcoming, accessible environment for all customers. RCC stated that it expects to be consulted prior to the development of standards that would affect the retail sector. RCC also called for accessibility standards to be harmonized to the greatest extent possible with best practices involving accessibility legislation in other parts of the country.

Next Steps:

RCC will continue working with the Minister of Justice and government staff as well as the soon to be established Accessibility Advisory Board in the development of accessibility standards.

RCC will continue to advocate on behalf of members for accessibility standards that create an increasingly welcoming environment for retail customers while being fair to business and harmonizing with existing best practices across Canada.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director, (Atlantic) at: [email protected] or 902-422-4144