Following extensive consultations, the Nova Scotia government is currently seeking feedback on its Phase 2 proposal for an accessibility standard for the built environment (eg: more detailed and technical recommendations to prevent and remove barriers and thus, make spaces more accessible). This consultation also includes proposed and related amendments to Nova Scotia’s Building Code regulations. The consultation will end on September 29, 2023. The government’s goal is to finalize the Built Environment Accessibility Standard Regulations and the corresponding building code regulations in early 2024. Following educational outreach, the government hopes to begin enforcing the accessibility standards for the built environment in 2026.
RCC has reviewed the consultation document and notes that the majority of the changes that will stem from the accessibility standard for the built environment will only apply to new buildings or major renovations on existing buildings and outdoor spaces. Please note that major renovations do not include maintenance. The proposed standards should not have a significant impact on RCC members due to the fact that these standards follow best practices in other parts of the country.
Wording in the consultation documents has been somewhat confusing. Given that these proposed standards are likely to be implemented, RCC members should take note of the following to ensure understanding and compliance:
Requirements related to signage in a retail store (including washroom signage / etc.) would only apply for new building construction or a significant renovation. These requirements follow the Canadian Standards Association, National Standard of Canada – Accessible Design For the Built Environment.
More information can be found in the consultation document on Pages 35, 36, and 45.
Counter Heights / Water Fountains:
Requirements related to counter heights and water fountains are covered under the Nova Scotia Building Code and apply to all building types. The government is ensuring that the wording in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard Regulations is harmonized with the Nova Scotia Building Code.
Shelving / Service Counters:
There was some confusion in the consultation document regarding obligations related to the following:
- assisted listening devices at service counters
RCC has confirmed that the requirements for shelving only apply to public libraries. In addition, the requirements for assisted listening devices at service counters only apply to new or renovated classrooms and auditoriums (such as court rooms or university auditoriums). At this time, the mandate for assisted listening devices at service counters does not apply to private businesses.
Nova Scotia Accessibility Directorate:
The Nova Scotia Accessibility Directorate reports to Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Advisory Board.
The Directorate’s proposed accessibility standard is in response to the Advisory Board’s standard recommendations for the built environment. These recommendations covered the following nine categories:
- Site selection
- Accessible Parking
- Emergency Systems
- Wayfinding and Signage
- Parks and Recreation
- Schools and Public Libraries
The Directorate’s definition for the built environment:
Built environment includes human-made spaces in which people live, work, learn, and play. This includes inside and outside of buildings as well as outdoor spaces such as trails, parks, and beaches.
RCC will continue to support reasonable changes to accessibility standards as such changes enhance the ability for all people to visit/work in RCC member businesses. RCC will continue to work closely with Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Directorate to ensure that any initiatives are harmonized with existing best practices.
For questions or more information contact
Director, Government Relations (Atlantic)