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Legislation coming in 2019, equality for persons with disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador is focus of ongoing efforts, minister says

From left, Mary Reid, director of disability with the provincial Disability Policy Office; Lisa Dempster, minister responsible for the status of persons with disabilities; and Marie Ryan, chair of the Provincial Advisory Council of Persons with Disabilities, at the Confederation Building Thursday.
From left, Mary Reid, director of disability with the provincial Disability Policy Office; Lisa Dempster, minister responsible for the status of persons with disabilities; and Marie Ryan, chair of the Provincial Advisory Council of Persons with Disabilities, at the Confederation Building Thursday. - Joe Gibbons

Representatives from advocacy and community organizations were at the Confederation Building Thursday for a public update on the three-year provincial action plan for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

There were two panels of speakers, with comments broadly marking the progress in Newfoundland and Labrador from 2015 to date, including everything from the installation of 113 visual fire alarms in homes, to more accessible transportation options, to changes in the existing regulations around blue-zone parking.

More is on the way, including entirely new legislation focused on inclusion.

“We’re not done yet. We’re far from it,” said Emily Christy with the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador (COD-NL), during the event.

The Liberals made changes to provincial regulations under the Buildings Accessibility Act late last year. At that time, a commitment was made to a comprehensive review of the act.

The minister responsible for the status of persons with disabilities, Lisa Dempster, told reporters that review work continues. But a separate piece of provincial legislation is also to be developed, focused on inclusion.

There are few details at this point.

Dempster committed to entering into public consultations and hosting a related summit by the end of the year.

“And as we move forward to bring legislation into the House of Assembly, which I’m guessing will likely by around spring 2019, that piece of legislation will be informed by what we are going to be doing over the next few months,” she said.

She told reporters she was aware of the federal Bill C-81, being called the Accessible Canada Act, tabled this week. It’s proposed as the country’s first national accessibility law.

“I haven’t had time to review it yet, but we’re really looking forward to seeing what are the details around this barrier-free Canada bill,” she said.

It was suggested to The Telegram the new provincial legislation will, among other things, bring the ideas introduced into different areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Dempster said the Liberal government wants to move beyond parking and access to buildings, and do more to support the broader understanding of inclusion, and the lives of persons with disabilities.

“I guess at the end of the day when we come in with this legislation, all of the various groups who have struggled with inclusion, we want them to see themselves in this document,” she said.

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