Disability advocate Haley Flaro says a plan to create accessibility legislation by the New Brunswick government will help take persons with a disability off the sidelines.
In the second part of a report, the Premier’s Council on Disabilities announced it would be moving forward with the development of legislation long sought by the disability non-profit sector.
“We are especially encouraged by the interim report of the Select Committee on Accessibility, which recommended the province move forward with the development of accessibility legislation,” said the council’s executive director, Christyne Allain.
Flaro said there are so many barriers when it comes to accessing services. New Brunswick has the second-highest rate of disability, trailing only neighbouring Nova Scotia.
“What legislation does is it sets the tone, sets the culture and allows for the establishment of regulation, which are required,” she said.
She is pleased this process is moving forward quickly.
“Legislation can take a long time,” she said. “But what I’m really happy about is that this process select committee report was in December and they promised draft legislation within a year that took other provinces multiple years to develop.”
The legislation could also include removing the medical model definition of disability, which Flaro explains can be prohibitive for some people needing to access services and resources.
“I’m really optimistic that our legislation will include a one social model definition of disability for all governments because right now, depending on the department you go to, the definition could be different,” she said.
New Brunswick is, though, is one of the last provinces to develop accessibility legislation, she said.
One of the biggest things, she said, is the inclusion of sport and recreation in the legislation.
“That is going to be what stands New Brunswick apart and we’re really excited about that because it is time that people and children … with a disability get off the sidelines,” she said.
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It’s also welcome news to the New Brunswick Council for Persons with a Disability.
Chair Shelley Petit said the legislation is a long time coming, but encouraging.
“These are policies that will help protect people, very basic that I don’t think that most people realize still happen to us on an everyday basis,” she said.
“We’re looking very forward to this getting into the legislature and passing (it),” Petit added. “We need to start providing services.”
Petit said there are many things that still need work, including income restriction policies that prevent spouses from living together and having support from the government.
Ultimately, Petit said when there is no equitable access, people with disabilities face consequences, like long-term hospitalization.
“It’s sad that it has taken this long but we’ll take the win,” she said.
She also hopes this will help create clearer policies across departments that have long made accessing supports and financial assistance difficult. The report made 43 recommendations in total, with a focus on employment, education, poverty, housing, disability support, accessibility, transportation, recreation and wellness.
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