Access for All More than Bricks and Mortar

first_img Creating accessible buildings and residences just makes sense,according to Ralph Ferguson, chair of the Nova Scotia DisabledPersons Commission. After all, if a person with a disabilitycannot easily enter or leave their home or another building,their opportunities for employment, education, and recreation canbe limited. “When you improve accessibility for me, or anyone with adisability, you improve it for everybody,” says the Pictou Countyresident. “If it’s easy for me to get around, then it’s easy forpeople with baby carriages or grocery carts too.” Mr. Ferguson has spent years working for better access in newresidential and commercial construction. Over the years, his mainfocus has been increasing accessibility in all areas of thecommunity. He has a special interest in working with localcontractors to construct buildings that accommodate differentneeds. Mr. Ferguson’s participation on the Disabled Persons Commissionand within his community is a real-life example of the theme forthe 2004 International Day Of Disabled Persons — Nothing AboutUs Without Us. The International Day of Disabled Persons, Dec. 3, is set asideeach year to celebrate and acknowledge the experience andcapabilities of people with disabilities. The 2004 theme is areminder that effective policies and programs depend uponcollaboration among people with disabilities and all levels ofgovernment. The ideas and perspectives of community members like Mr. Fergusonenable the Disabled Persons Commission to influence governmentdecisions. Recently, for example, the commission provided inputon the framework for an updated federal-provincial employmentinitiative for people with disabilities. This framework willsupport people with disabilities in becoming employed, succeedingin their jobs and remaining in the workplace. It will also assistemployers as they get ready to hire people with disabilities. The Multi-lateral Framework for Persons with Disabilities wasdeveloped after almost two years of discussions and extensiveconsultations with the disability community, including theDisabled Persons Commission. As a result, it better reflects theviews and needs of persons with disabilities by providing a morecomprehensive, yet flexible, approach to programming. The Disabled Persons Commission was created in 1990 to advise theprovincial government and educate Nova Scotians on issuesconcerning people with disabilities. Mr. Ferguson got involvedwith the commission because, as a person with a mobilitydisability, he says he’s always been interested in issuesconcerning access and mobility. Mr. Ferguson’s participation on the Disabled Persons Commissionis one way he, as a person with a disability, can inform andguide policies and programs for persons with disabilities. Hispassion for improving accessible housing is another. Mr. Ferguson says better access to buildings and homes,transportation and communication are some of the most importantissues for people with disabilities. He wants accessibility tocome to mind, especially when new residential areas are beingbuilt, so that anyone can live in or visit a home. He points to the high cost of renovations as a good reason tothink about making new homes accessible now. “It’s a goodinvestment to consider accessibility now rather than later, sinceneeds can change down the road,” he says. “We need to think about more than just bricks and mortar,” saysMr. Ferguson. “We want the general public to think differently.” According to the Statistics Canada Participation and ActivityLimitation survey, Nova Scotia continues to have the highest rateof disability in Canada, with about one in five Nova Scotiansreporting a disability. -30- DISABLED PERSONS COMMISSION–Access for All More than Bricks andMortarlast_img

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