Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act
Updated: February 7, 2023
The Accessibility Act, also known as Bill 59, was passed in April 2017 to aid Nova Scotia in achieving an accessible province by 2030. The Accessibility Act is an exciting and necessary step for the province, as 30.4% of Nova Scotians have a disability, the highest of any province in Canada.
This blog post will summarize the act, section by section.
The Accessibility Directorate, whose leadership is selected by the Minister, supports the act’s implementation. The directorate’s role is to address disability-related initiatives to ensure that the Government acknowledges disabled individuals’ concerns.
Responsibilities of the directorate include:
- Providing policy, programming, communication, and administrative support on all aspects of the act and its regulations
- Developing and implementing public education and awareness programs on the Accessibility Act
- Examining policies, practices, and other requirements to improve opportunities for people with disabilities
- Identifying and studying the disability community’s concerns and recommending action where appropriate
Accessibility Advisory Board
The Accessibility Advisory Board is responsible for creating standards in six areas:
- Goods and services
- Information and communication
- Public transportation and transportation infrastructure
- The built environment
The Advisory Board holds a minimum of four regular meetings yearly and meets with the Minister at least annually, during which the board makes accessibility-related recommendations. The board must prepare a publicly available summary report after each meeting and a yearly report of the board’s activities during the preceding fiscal year. The board met 12 times in 2020–2021.
The board’s responsibilities include:
- Suggesting policies the Government may implement to achieve accessibility
- Evaluating existing measures, policies, and practices and their alignment with the act
- Setting priorities for the implementation and content of accessibility standards
- Setting long-term accessibility objectives
- Giving the Minister accessibility advice
The Advisory Board has indicated that website compliance requirements will be based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
“We are proud to have worked with people with disabilities and business to take this historic step toward an accessible Nova Scotia,” Justice Minister Diana Whalen said. “This act commits us to a timeline to make the province an accessible place to live, work, learn and play.”
When making a recommendation to the Minister, the board must ensure that the proposed accessibility standard is clear, comprehensive, and thoughtful.
An accessibility plan must include a report on measures the public sector body is taking to identify, remove, and prevent barriers, as well as a way to measure the plan’s effectiveness. An accessibility standard may specify who is subject to the standard and set out measures and policies for identifying and removing barriers.
When preparing recommendations under Sections 21 and 22, the board must consult the following people:
- People with disabilities
- Members from organizations representing people with disabilities
- Representatives of those engaged in the action or may be subject to the proposed standard
- Representatives of government entities related to the undertaking that may be subject to the proposed standard
- Anyone else the Minister considers advisable
If the Minister wants to aid an individual or organization in meeting its accessibility standard, they can recommend that the Governor in Council prescribe incentive-based measures.
Every public sector body was required to publish a public accessibility plan within a year of Bill 59’s enactment. They also need to seek input from the disability community when preparing an accessibility plan. Plans are to be updated every three years and made available to the public.
Each establishment must have an accessibility advisory committee. At least half of its members must have a disability or represent the disability community. If desired, multiple public sector bodies can have a joint accessibility plan.
To Whom do Accessibility Standards Apply?
Accessibility standards may apply to those who:
- Employ others
- Offer accommodation
- Own, operate, maintain or control an aspect of the built environment other than a private residence with three or fewer dwelling units
- Provide goods, services, or information to the public
- Engage in a prescribed activity or undertaking or meet other prescribed requirements
Compliance and Enforcement
The Director of Compliance and Enforcement identifies individuals or organizations that have violated the terms of the Accessibility Act.
Inspectors have a lot of power. They can enter any property subject to the act, in addition to anywhere they think materials relevant to the administration or enforcement of the act are kept.
The inspector identifies violations of the act and orders those responsible to remedy breaches. If the party in question does not address the issue, the director can require them to pay a penalty.
An individual or organization who repeatedly fails to act in accordance with the regulations or commits other severe violations may be fined up to $250,000.
We hope this blog helped you understand the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act. To learn more about the legislation, read the full bill text.
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