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Pictou man wants local input on accessibility legislation

Ralph Ferguson, chair of Let Abilities Work Partnership Society, is looking forward to learning more at a meeting Friday about the redrafting of a bill aimed at the accessibility of buildings.
Ralph Ferguson, chair of Let Abilities Work Partnership Society, is looking forward to learning more at a meeting Friday about the redrafting of a bill aimed at the accessibility of buildings.

When people build they often don’t think about growing old or disabilities.

They don’t make their doors wide enough for a wheelchair or have an entrance without steps. They don’t include bathrooms with enough room to turn a wheelchair around in.

They don’t make their doors wide enough for a wheelchair or have an entrance without steps. They don’t include bathrooms with enough room to turn a wheelchair around in.

But Ralph Ferguson believes they should.

Ferguson, chair of the Let Abilities Work Partnership Society, hopes more standards prompting people to think about how they’re building will be included in a redraft of Bill 59. The Accessibility Act – An Act Respecting Accessibility in Nova Scotia – was introduced in the Legislature on Nov. 2, proceeded to Second Reading on Nov. 3, and to Law Amendments on Nov. 7. It remains with the Law Amendments Committee, which is interested in hearing more from those impacted.

Approximately one in five Nova Scotians has a disability of some sort.

Applying that stat to the population of Pictou County, Ferguson believes about 7,000 people live with a disability in this county, which is why he believes it’s important that area residents have their say about the bill.

Unfortunately, he said, a public meeting for this area fell through. He took it upon himself to invite the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission to the next Let Abilities Work meeting and have them share about the bill and get feedback.

The meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Friday in the basement of Christian Fellowship Church on Abercrombie Road in New Glasgow.

Ferguson said he’s not as familiar with the bill as he’d like to be which is why he believes this bill is important.

He said for him personally accessibility is a big issue because he’s in a wheelchair. He recalls a recent doctor appointment where the doors of the doctor’s office were just 24 inches wide. It was a struggle to get through.

He said he can go up and down any street in the community and see perhaps two houses he could access with his wheelchair.

“We’re not building houses with the understanding that we’re an aging population and people are having problems with stairs,” he said.

People don’t think about it when they’re young, which is why he believes it should be established in building codes.

“Generally, if you plan it like that, it’s actually cheaper to do that,” he said.

In his own house, all the doors are 36 inches and while the door itself may cost slightly more, he said, if you take into account what you save on wall materials, it’s actually pretty much the same.

“Nobody does it because it was never done that way before,” he said. “I’m hoping that these things can be pointed out.”

He said when you build a house, odds are it will be used by several different families over the course of its existence. With one in five with a disability, likely at one time or another someone with a disability will live in the home.

“Somewhere along the line someone is going to need an accessible house, either them or a family member. These things are not thought about.”

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