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Haley Flaro, the executive director of Ability New Brunswick, speaks during a news conference on May 17, 2024. Image: YouTube video capture

Disability advocates welcome accessibility legislation

By Brad Perry May 21, 2024 | 6:31 AM

Disability advocates are welcoming new proposed accessibility legislation in New Brunswick.

On Friday, the province unveiled the Accessibility Act, its first piece of accessibility legislation.

Haley Flaro is the executive director of Ability New Brunswick, a community-based non-profit advocacy group.

Flaro said the bill, which has yet to be approved, will change things for those living with disabilities.

“It sets the culture, it sets the tone, and it sets the standards for performance as a government, as a community, and as citizens. So this is really changing the conversation in New Brunswick and setting the standards,” said Flaro.

“A disability lens on everything we do in terms of legislation, policy, and program development is so critical, so our communities are sustainable, inclusive, and everyone has an opportunity for social and economic participation.”

RELATED: N.B. introduces first accessibility legislation

Flaro noted that accessibility legislation is critical in a province that has the second-highest rate of disability in Canada.

In fact, New Brunswick saw an eight per cent increase in people living with disability between 2017 and 2022, the largest in the country.

“There’s going to be regulatory standards on housing, transportation, education, built environment, and disability service delivery, and those pillars show me that this population has been heard,” said Flaro.

“I’m actually really pleased to note that we have a unique pillar. It’s going to be one on sport and recreation, so no children and no adults are left behind when it comes to sport, recreation, and active living.”

The Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour will be responsible for the administration of the act, including a renewable five-year strategic plan.

It would be supported by an accessibility board, comprised of up to 12 appointed members who have lived experience, and an accessibility office.

The accessibility office will have a role to play in education and capacity building, receiving and investigating complaints, and working on compliance and enforcement.

“Today is groundbreaking, it is historic, and we’re anxious to roll up our sleeves for the implementation,” said Flaro.

It is expected the accessibility office would be established by the end of August, a minister’s five-year strategic plan would be released by next spring, and public sector accessibility plans would be established by the end of 2025.