By Ruth Davenport - Metro Halifax
HALIFAX - After three years of lobbying, a legislative all-party committee took less than two minutes to pass amendments requiring all MLA constituency offices to be fully accessible.
The House of Assembly Management Commission met Wednesday morning and voted unanimously in favour of the rule changes, which require new MLAs to meet the requirements for barrier-free as stated in the provincial building code within a year of being elected.
Returning MLAs have three years to bring their offices up to standard.
“This is… a very important step, but one small step towards greater change and more positive participation of people with disabilities in the system and in our province as a whole,” said Kevin Murphy, co-founder of the James McGregor Stewart Society.
The society urged the commission to meet and pass the amendments before the next provincial election, which would have wiped the rule changes off the books.
Speaker and commission chair Gordie Gosse said returning MLAs have the longer window for compliance in recognition of existing leases that they may be tied to, or because of a lack of barrier-free options in their riding.
“I do feel in my heart that most of the MLAs will comply with this in a lot shorter than the 36 months,” said Gosse, adding his campaign headquarters is barrier-free.
Murphy said some offices will need only minimal adjustments to meet modern accessibility standards, and others will just have to be vacated.
“This is a simple thing that should have been done a long time ago,” he said.