BILL NO. 59

(as introduced)

3rd Session, 62nd General Assembly
Nova Scotia
65 Elizabeth II, 2016



Government Bill



Accessibility Act



The Honourable Joanne Bernard
Minister of Community Services



First Reading: November 2, 2016

Second Reading: November 3, 2017

Third Reading: April 27, 2017 (WITH COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS) (LINK TO BILL AS PASSED)

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An Act Respecting
Accessibility in Nova Scotia

WHEREAS barriers to accessibility are a reality for many Nova Scotians with disabilities;

AND WHEREAS, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, member states undertake to take appropriate measures to ensure accessibility and to develop and monitor minimum accessibility standards;

AND WHEREAS the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants equality rights to all persons without discrimination on the basis of a disability;

AND WHEREAS the Human Rights Act recognizes that the Government, public agencies and all persons have a responsibility to ensure equal opportunity for every individual to enjoy a full and productive life;

AND WHEREAS the number of Nova Scotians with disabilities is likely to rise due to the demographic changes associated with an aging population;

AND WHEREAS an accessible Nova Scotia will improve the health, well-being and independence of persons with disabilities;

AND WHEREAS public consultation provides an opportunity for Nova Scotians to be actively involved in the development of a process for identifying, reducing, removing and preventing barriers;

AND WHEREAS the Government is committed to establishing progressive timelines for developing and implementing accessibility standards while taking into account the resources required to comply with such standards;

THEREFORE be it enacted by the Governor and Assembly as follows:

1 This Act may be cited as the Accessibility Act.

2 The purpose of this Act is to

(a) ensure that issues related to persons with disabilities are conveyed to and addressed by public sector bodies;

(b) ensure that existing measures, policies, practices and other requirements are reviewed with a view to making suggestions to improve accessibility;

(c) provide the framework and authority to create accessibility standards; and

(d) facilitate the implementation and monitoring of and compliance with accessibility standards.

3 (1) In this Act,

(a) "accessibility plan" means a plan to address the identification, reduction, removal and prevention of barriers in the policies, programs, practices and services of a public sector body;

(b) "accessibility standard" means an accessibility standard established under this Act;

(c) "barrier" means anything that hinders the full and effective participation in society of persons with disabilities including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice;

(d) "Board" means the Accessibility Advisory Board established under this Act;

(e) "built environment" means a building, a structure or premises;

(f) "committee" means a committee established under this Act;

(g) "Court" means the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia;

(h) "disability" means a physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment that, in the interaction with a barrier, hinders an individual's full and effective participation in society;

(i) "government entity" means any department, board, commission, foundation, agency, association or other body of persons, whether incorporated or unincorporated, all the members of which or all the members of the board of management or board of directors of which

(j) "inspector" means an inspector appointed under this Act;

(k) "Minister" means the Minister of Community Services;

(l) "organization" includes a government entity, sole proprietorship, corporation, society, association, partnership and limited liability partnership, any association of individuals and any similar body;

(m) "order" means an order made under this Act;

(n) "prescribed" means prescribed by the regulations;

(o) "public sector body" means

(2) A document or information is publicly available if it is posted on a website or made available in a prescribed manner.

4 (1) Nothing in this Act or the regulations diminishes the rights and protections offered to persons with disabilities under the Human Rights Act.

(2) Where a provision of this Act or the regulations conflicts with a provision of another enactment, the provision of this Act or the regulations prevails unless the other enactment provides a higher level of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

5 This Act binds Her Majesty in right of the Province.

6 The Minister is responsible for the general supervision and management of this Act and the regulations.

7 The Minister shall

(a) raise awareness of how persons with disabilities are disabled by barriers;

(b) promote and encourage the prevention, reduction and removal of barriers;

(c) oversee the development and implementation of accessibility standards necessary to attain the purpose of this Act;

(d) assist in the integration of applicable accessibility standards into the activities of all persons in the Province; and

(e) ensure persons in the Province are consulted in the development of accessibility standards and informed about their duties and responsibilities under the standards once created.

8 (1) The Minister shall annually prepare a report of the actions the Minister has undertaken pursuant to Section 7 during the preceding fiscal year.

(2) The Minister shall table the report in the House of Assembly within 15 days after it is completed or, where the Assembly is not then sitting, file it with the Clerk of the Assembly.

9 (1) The Minister may, in writing, delegate any power or duty conferred or imposed on the Minister under this Act to

(a) an employee of a government entity;

(b) an employee of a municipality; or

(c) another person,

who, in the Minister's opinion, has the requisite qualifications and experience.

(2) Where the Minister delegates a power or duty under subsection (1), the Minister may

(a) specify how the power or duty is to be exercised or performed and impose any requirement in relation to or restrictions on the exercise or performance of the power or duty that the Minister considers appropriate; and

(b) provide that the delegate be paid for, or reimbursed for the cost of, exercising or performing the delegated power or duty.

(3) Before making a delegation to a person under clause (1)(a) or (b), the Minister shall consult with and obtain the consent of the employer of the person.

(4) Before making a delegation to a person under clause (1)(c), the Minister shall obtain the consent of the person.

(5) The Minister may revoke a delegation made under subsection (1).

ACCESSIBILITY DIRECTORATE

10 (1) There shall be an Accessibility Directorate.

(2) The role of the Accessibility Directorate is to

(a) support the implementation and administration of this Act and the regulations;

(b) address broader disability-related initiatives by acting as a central government mechanism to ensure that the concerns of persons with disabilities respecting policy, program development and delivery are advanced and considered by the Government.

11 (1) The Minister shall appoint an Executive Director and the staff of the Accessibility Directorate.

(2) The Executive Director shall lead the Accessibility Directorate and liaise with the Board.

(3) The staff appointed to the Accessibility Directorate are deemed to be appointed to the Civil Service pursuant to the Civil Service Act.

12 The Accessibility Directorate shall

(a) provide policy, programming, communication and administrative support on all aspects of this Act and the regulations;

(b) conduct research and develop and implement programs of public education and awareness on the purpose of this Act;

(c) examine and review measures, policies, practices and other requirements to improve opportunities for persons with disabilities; and

(d) identify and study issues of concern to persons with disabilities and recommend action where appropriate.

ACCESSIBILITY ADVISORY BOARD

13 (1) There shall be an Accessibility Advisory Board consisting of

(a) 12 members appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister; and

(b) four non-voting members.

(2) In making recommendations to the Governor in Council for the purpose of subsection (1), the Minister shall take into consideration

(a) the skills and assets the Minister considers necessary to ensure an effective and optimally functioning Board; and

(b) representation by stakeholder groups that will be subject to the accessibility standards.

(3) At least one half of the members of the Board must be persons with disabilities.

(4) The following persons are non-voting members of the Board whose presence at or absence from a meeting does not affect quorum:

(a) the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal or that Minister's designate;

(b) the Minister of Business or that Minister's designate;

(c) the Minister of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness or that Minister's designate; and

(d) the Minister of Municipal Affairs or that Minister's designate.

14 (1) A person appointed to the Board pursuant to clause 13(1)(a) holds office for a term of three years.

(2) No person may be appointed to the Board pursuant to clause 13(1)(a) for more than two consecutive terms.

15 (1) The Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister, may designate members of the Board appointed pursuant to clause 13(1)(a) as the Chair and the Vice-chair of the Board.

(2) The Vice-chair shall act as Chair if the Chair is absent or unable to act or when authorized to act by the Chair.

16 (1) The Board shall hold at least four regular meetings in each year and meet with the Minister at least once every 12 months.

(2) The Board shall prepare a summary report after each regular meeting and make the report publicly available.

(3) The Board shall annually prepare a report of its activities and operations during the preceding fiscal year and file it with the Minister.

17 The Board shall advise and make recommendations to the Minister about accessibility and, in particular, shall

(a) suggest measures, policies, practices and requirements that may be implemented by the Government to improve accessibility;

(b) assess whether existing measures, policies, practices and requirements are consistent with the purpose of this Act;

(c) set priorities for the establishment and content of accessibility standards and the timelines for their implementation;

(d) set long-term accessibility objectives for furthering the purpose of this Act; and

(e) respond to requests for accessibility advice from the Minister.

18 The Minister may, in consultation with the Board,

(a) establish standard development committees to assist the Board with making recommendations to the Minister on the content and implementation of accessibility standards;

(b) specify a committee's mandate;

(c) provide guidelines for a committee's functions and operations; and

(d) establish a subcommittee of technical experts and other individuals familiar with issues specific to the standard being developed.

19 (1) A standard development committee established under Section 18 must have

(a) one half of its membership consist of persons with disabilities or representatives from organizations representing persons with disabilities;

(b) representatives of organizations and classes of organizations likely to be affected by the standard being developed; and

(c) representatives from departments of the Government that have responsibilities related to the standard being developed.

(2) A person does not need to be a member of the Board to be a member of a committee.

20 (1) Committee members not employed in the public service of the Province shall be paid such remuneration as is determined by the Minister.

(2) Committee members shall be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS

21 (1) Where the Minister determines that there is an accessibility issue, the Minister shall prepare terms of reference for an accessibility standard to address the issue.

(2) The terms of reference prepared under subsection (1) must

(a) specify the accessibility issue;

(b) specify the individual, organization or class that may be subject to the standard;

(c) establish a timeline for a response by the Board; and

(d) suggest individuals, organizations and public sector bodies to be consulted.

(3) The Minister shall give the terms of reference to the Board and make them publicly available.

22 (1) Upon receipt of the terms of reference for a proposed accessibility standard, the Board shall consider and make any recommendations to the Minister respecting

(a) the accessibility objectives for the activity or undertaking, the class, the aspect of the built environment or the individuals or organizations to which the standard relates; and

(b) the measures, policies, practices and other requirements that the Board believes should be implemented, including

(2) An accessibility standard must include

(a) an economic impact assessment for the standard;

(b) an assessment of how the standard will increase accessibility in the Province; and

(c) a progressive timeline which takes into account the resources required to comply.

(3) When recommending time periods for implementing an accessibility standard, the Board shall consider

(a) the nature of the barriers that the measures, policies, practices and other requirements are intended to identify, reduce, remove or prevent;

(b) any technical and economic considerations that may be associated with implementing the standard; and

(c) any other matter referred to in the terms of reference.

23 When preparing recommendations under Section 28, the Board shall consult with

(a) persons with disabilities or representatives from organizations representing persons with disabilities;

(b) representatives of those engaged in the activity or undertaking, or the individuals or organizations, or representatives of the class that may be made subject to the proposed accessibility standard;

(c) representatives of government entities that have responsibilities relating to the activity, undertaking or class that may be made subject to the proposed accessibility standard; and

(d) other individuals or organizations that the Minister considers advisable, including a standard development committee.

24 The Board shall attempt to achieve a consensus among its members on its recommendations but, where there is no consensus, the majority may make recommendations and one or more members may submit separate recommendations.

25 The recommendations must be submitted to the Minister in the form and within the period specified by the Minister.

26 Upon receipt of the recommendations, the Minister may prepare a proposed accessibility standard adopting the recommendations in whole, in part or with any modifications the Minister considers appropriate.

27 An accessibility standard may

(a) specify the individuals or organizations that are subject to the standard;

(b) set out measures, policies, practices and other requirements for

(c) require the individuals or organizations that are subject to the standard to implement those measures, policies, practices and other requirements within the period specified in the standard.

28 An accessibility standard may be general or specific in its application and may be limited as to time and place.

29 Accessibility standards may apply to individuals or organizations that

(a) employ others;

(b) offer accommodation;

(c) own, operate, maintain or control an aspect of the built environment other than a private residence with three or fewer dwelling units;

(d) provide goods, services or information to the public; or

(e) engage in a prescribed activity or undertaking or meet other prescribed requirements.

30 An accessibility standard may apply to different classes of individuals or organizations or aspects of the built environment and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, may apply to classes with respect to any attribute, quality or characteristic, or any combination of those things, including

(a) the number of persons employed by an individual or organization or its annual revenue;

(b) the type of activity or undertaking in which an individual or organization is engaged or the sector of the economy of which an individual or organization is a part; or

(c) a particular characteristic of an aspect of the built environment, such as the type of infrastructure or the size of a building, a structure or premises, that is owned, operated, maintained or controlled by an individual or organization.

31 An accessibility standard may define a class to include or exclude an individual or organization, or an aspect of the built environment, having the same or different attributes, qualities or characteristics.

32 An individual or organization may be subject to more than one accessibility standard.

33 The Minister shall make a proposed accessibility standard and the recommendations publicly available.

34 Within 60 days after a proposed accessibility standard is made publicly available, or within any other longer period specified by the Minister, an individual or organization may submit comments about the proposed standard to the Minister.

35 After consulting with the Board with respect to any comments received and revising the proposed accessibility standard if the Minister considers it appropriate, the Minister may recommend the standard to the Governor in Council for approval as a regulation.

36 The Minister may, by giving written notice to the Board, withdraw the terms of reference for an accessibility standard that has been given to the Board and, where the Minister does so, the Board shall cease its activities in respect of that standard.

37 An individual or organization that is subject to an accessibility standard shall

(a) prepare and keep records in accordance with the regulations; and

(b) make the records available for inspection and examination under this Act and the regulations.

38 An individual or organization that is subject to an accessibility standard shall comply with it within the period specified in the standard.

39 Every public sector body shall prepare and make publicly available an accessibility plan.

40 An accessibility plan must include

(a) a report on measures the public sector body has taken and intends to take to identify, reduce, remove and prevent barriers;

(b) information on procedures the public sector body has in place to assess the following for their effect on accessibility for persons with disabilities:

(c) any other prescribed information.

41 A public sector body shall consult with persons with disabilities or representatives of organizations representing persons with disabilities when preparing an accessibility plan.

42 A public sector body shall update its accessibility plan every three years and make it publicly available.

43 Two or more prescribed municipalities may have a joint accessibility plan.

44 (1) The council of every municipality having a population of 10,000 or more shall establish an accessibility advisory committee or continue any such committee that was established before the coming into force of this Act.

(2) At least one half of the members of an accessibility advisory committee must be persons with disabilities or representatives from organizations representing persons with disabilities.

COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT

45 (1) Inspectors and other persons required to administer compliance with and enforcement of this Act and the regulations shall be appointed by the Minister in accordance with the Civil Service Act.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the Minister may engage, upon such terms and conditions as the Minister considers necessary, the services of such persons as the Minister requires for administering compliance with and enforcement of this Act and the regulations.

46 (1) An inspector carrying out an inspection under this Act shall produce, on request, an identification card provided by the Minister for that purpose.

(2) A copy of an identification card purporting to be signed by the Minister is proof in any court of law that an individual is an inspector.

47 (1) An inspector may carry out any inspection, examination or test reasonably required to

(a) determine compliance with this Act and the regulations;

(b) verify the accuracy or completeness of a record or of other information required to be prepared under this Act and the regulations; or

(c) perform any other duty or function that the inspector considers necessary or advisable in the administration or enforcement of this Act and the regulations.

(2) When carrying out an inspection under this Section, an inspector may

(a) require the production of any document or record for inspection and copying; and

(b) inspect the physical premises and equipment.

48 An inspector has all the powers, privileges and immunities of a commissioner appointed under the Public Inquiries Act, with the exception of the powers of contempt, arrest and imprisonment.

49 (1) Subject to subsection (2), an inspector may, at any reasonable time, enter

(a) any land or any building, structure, premises or place that is subject to this Act or the regulations; or

(b) any other premises or place where the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe that records or things relevant to the administration or enforcement of this Act or the regulations are kept,

for the purpose of administering and enforcing this Act or the regulations.

(2) An inspector may not enter a private dwelling place or any part of a place that is designed to be used and is being used as a permanent or temporary private dwelling place except

(a) with the consent of the occupant of the place; or

(b) under an order granted under Section 50.

50 (1) Where a justice is satisfied on evidence under oath by an inspector that

(a) there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is appropriate for the administration of this Act for the inspector to do anything set out in Section 47; and

(b) the inspector may not be able to carry out duties under this Act effectively without an order under this Section because

the justice may issue an order authorizing the inspector to do anything set out in Section 47 that is specified in the order for the period set out in the order.

(2) The period referred to in subsection (1) may not extend beyond 30 days after the date on which the order is made, but the order may be renewed for any reason set out in subsection (1) for one or more periods, each of which may not be more than 30 days.

(3) An application for an extension under subsection (2) may be made before or after the expiry of the period.

(4) An order under this Section may be issued or renewed on application without notice.

51 An inspector who finds that this Act or the regulations are being or have been contravened may issue an order, in the form prescribed, requiring the individual or organization responsible for the contravention to remedy it.

52 (1) An individual or organization named in an order made under Section 51 may request the Minister to review the order.

(2) A request must be made in writing and must include the individual's or organization's name and address, the reasons for requesting the review and any additional information that the individual or organization wants to be considered by the Minister.

(3) The Minister is not required to hold a hearing when a request for review is made.

(4) A request for review operates as a stay of the inspector's order pending the outcome of the review by the Minister.

(5) The Minister may confirm, revoke or vary the order.

(6) The Minister shall, within 60 days of the request for review being made, provide the individual or organization who requested the review with

(a) a copy of the Minister's decision, with written reasons; and

(b) notification of the right to appeal the decision to the Court under Section 58.

(7) Where a request for review of an inspector's order is not received by the Minister within 30 days after the order is served, the inspector's order is final.

53 (1) Subject to Section 54, where the Minister is of the opinion that an individual or organization has failed to comply with an inspector's order within the period specified in the order, the Minister may issue a written notice requiring the individual or organization to pay an administrative penalty in the amount prescribed.

(2) Notice of an administrative penalty may only be issued after the period for appealing an order has expired or, where an appeal has been filed, after a decision has been made on the appeal.

(3) The notice of administrative penalty must be served on the individual or organization required to pay the penalty.

54 No penalty may be issued by the Minister more than three years after the act or omission that renders the individual or organization liable to a penalty first came to the knowledge of the Minister.

55 (1) The Minister may file a certificate in the Supreme Court signed by the Minister and setting out

(a) the amount of the administrative penalty issued; and

(b) the individual or organization against whom the penalty is issued.

(2) A certificate filed under this Section has the same force and effect as if it were a judgment obtained in the Court for the recovery of a debt in the amount set out in the certificate and may be enforced in the same manner as a judgment of that Court.

56 An individual or organization who pays an administrative penalty for an incident of non-compliance may not be charged with an offence with respect to that non-compliance unless the non-compliance continues after the penalty is paid.

57 Administrative penalties paid under this Act must be used for the purpose of accessibility initiatives, including public education and awareness.

58 (1) Any individual or organization who is directly affected by a decision of the Minister made under

(a) Section 52 with respect to an order; or

(b) Section 53 with respect to an administrative penalty,

may appeal the decision by filing a notice of appeal with the Court and serving a copy on the Minister.

(2) An appeal may be made on the following grounds:

(a) in the case of a decision under Section 52, that the finding of a contravention of this Act or the regulations was incorrect; or

(b) in the case of an administrative penalty, that

(3) An appeal may not be commenced more than 30 days after the individual or organization receives a decision of the Minister.

(4) An appellant shall serve a notice of appeal on any other person who the Court orders to be served.

59 On receipt of the notice of appeal under subsection 58(1), the Minister shall file with the Court true copies of

(a) all documents and materials that were before the Minister when the Minister made the decision;

(b) the Minister's decision; and

(c) the Minister's written reasons for the decision.

60 (1) On hearing an appeal under Section 58, the Court may confirm, vary or dismiss the decision or refer the matter back to the Minister.

(2) The Court may make any order as to costs on an appeal that the Court considers appropriate.

61 The commencement of an appeal under Section 58 operates as a stay of the decision pending the outcome of the appeal.

62 The Minister may issue public reports disclosing details of orders and decisions made and administrative penalties issued under this Act.

63 The following documents must be provided in an accessible format and at no charge to a person within a reasonable period after the person requests it from the Minister or a public sector body:

(a) in the case of the Minister,

(b) in the case of a public sector body, its accessibility plan.

64 (1) Within four years after the coming into force of this Act, and at least every five years thereafter, the Governor in Council shall appoint a person to undertake a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the Act and report on the person's findings to the Minister.

(2) The person undertaking the review under this Section shall consult with

(a) persons with disabilities;

(b) representatives from organizations representing persons with disabilities; and

(c) representatives from organizations affected by the implementation of accessibility standards.

(3) Within 30 days of receiving the report, the Minister shall make the report publicly available.

65 No action lies against the Minister, the Accessibility Directorate, the Board, an inspector or any other person acting under the authority of this Act for anything done, or omitted to be done, in good faith, in the exercise or intended exercise of a power or duty under this Act or the regulations.

66 An individual or organization who

(a) repeatedly fails to

(b) knowingly makes a false or misleading statement to the Minister or an inspector acting under the authority of this Act;

(c) knowingly makes a false or misleading statement in a record or report given or required under this Act;

(d) hinders, obstructs or interferes with, or attempts to hinder, obstruct or interfere with, the Minister or an inspector acting under the authority of this Act; or

(e) continues to fail to comply with an inspector's order after having been issued an administrative penalty, regardless of whether the penalty is paid,

is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $25,000.

67 In a prosecution of an offence under this Act, it is sufficient proof of the offence to establish that it was committed by an employee or agent of the accused whether or not the employee or agent is identified or has been prosecuted for the offence, unless the accused establishes that the offence was committed without the knowledge or consent of the accused.

68 Where an organization commits an offence, a director, officer or agent of the organization who authorized, permitted or acquiesced in the offence is also guilty of the offence and liable on summary conviction to the penalty set out in Section 66, whether or not the organization has been prosecuted or convicted.

69 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations

(a) prescribing municipalities and organizations in the public sector as public sector bodies;

(b) prescribing the manner in which a report must be made publicly available;

(c) prescribing an activity, undertaking or other requirements for the purpose of clause 23(1)(e);

(d) establishing accessibility standards;

(e) exempting an individual or organization or a class of individuals or organizations, or an aspect of the built environment, from the application of any provision of this Act or the regulations and prescribing terms and conditions for the exemption;

(f) respecting record-keeping and reporting requirements for individuals and organizations that are subject to an accessibility standard;

(g) respecting accessibility plans, including the content, timing and preparation of such plans;

(h) prescribing municipalities that may have a joint accessibility plan;

(i) respecting the offices, positions, territorial jurisdiction and duties of inspectors generally or specifically;

(j) establishing rules governing the qualifications, office, position, duties, conduct and discipline of inspectors;

(k) respecting the form of the order an inspector may make, including the content of the order and the method of its service;

(l) prescribing the form an inspector must use when making an order under Section 51;

(m) for the purpose of Section 53, respecting administrative penalties for contraventions of this Act, including regulations

(n) respecting the specific use to be made of any funds collected through the imposition of administrative penalties;

(o) respecting the manner in which any order, notice or other document under this Act may be served, given or provided to any individual or organization;

(p) respecting incentive-based measures to encourage and assist an individual or organization to meet an accessibility standard;

(q) defining any word or expression used but not defined in this Act;

(r) respecting any matter or thing the Governor in Council considers necessary or advisable to effectively carry out the intent and purpose of this Act.

(2) The exercise by the Governor in Council of the authority contained in subsection (1) is a regulation within the meaning of the Regulations Act.

70 Chapter 130 of the Acts of 1989, the Disabled Persons' Commission Act, is repealed.

71 This Act comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation.

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