Accessibility

Thousands still available for business accessibility grants

Nova Scotia businesses can apply for grants to improve accessibility

Only 13 of Nova Scotia’s 6,000 restaurants have joined a pioneering program designed to help improve accessibility for disabled patrons and employees.

Businesses can get grants through the provincially funded Business Access-Ability Grant program launched in 2017. Only 24 business have received funds from the program in the last year, including restaurants, hotels and stores.

Gerry Post, executive director of the Nova Scotia Accessibility Directorate, said many businesses aren’t aware of the grant. He added that inaccessible businesses are ignoring a large market of disabled customers in Nova Scotia.

“There’s a lack of awareness of the size of the market that they are missing out on,” he said.

On Tuesday, the provincial community service committee received an update on the program.

Of the 24 businesses that received money this year, only two of the businesses are in Halifax.

Out of a $1-million budget from the province of Nova Scotia, $600,000 has already been spent.  Businesses can apply for cost shared accessibly improvement grants in five categories.

  1. Built environments
  2. Accessible communication services
  3. Accessible devices
  4. Accessible transportation
  5. Universal Design Capacity Building Courses and Workshops

“It’s a great resource and tool to have an incentive for the business community to make their business successful both for employees but also for consumers,” said Dawn Stegen, director of regional services for the Department of Culture and Heritage in Nova Scotia.

Dawn Stegen is the director of regional services for the department of culture and heritage in Nova Scotia.   Maya Palacio

Nova Scotia is the third province in Canada to have an accessibility program. Before the program, there were no people in Nova Scotia who knew how to teach businesses and their employees how to use accessible devices, Stegen said. Now there are 43.

Nova Scotia has the highest proportion of disabled people in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, about 30 per cent of Nova Scotians 15 years and older have at least one disability.

“We’re making a huge difference in Nova Scotia from what we’re doing, you see the level of support that we have,” said Post.

Post has been in a wheelchair for six years.

“Disability does not have any political barriers or political boundaries, it affects everybody and you can join it tomorrow, you don’t know.”