Disability Act Could Ease Budget Cuts, Says Diversity Officer

Cape Breton Regional Municipality diversity officer Scott Thomas speaks during a CBRM diversity committee meeting at the Civic Centre in Sydney on Wednesday.
Published on March 4, 2012
Greg McNeil

SYDNEY — The Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s diversity officer sees a disability law as the answer to potential education and transportation funding shortfalls across the province.

“I think with the current cuts we are all feeling, in particular education, the disability act would protect children that have disabilities that have the right to a teacher’s assistant,” Scott Thomas said during Wednesday’s CBRM diversity committee meeting.

“In many provinces, that funding comes from a disability act rather than the department of education.”

A disability act would also guarantee funding for Handi-Trans services, he said.

Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador have disability acts, but Nova Scotia only has a disability bill, which Thomas said lacks teeth.

“(Nova Scotia) have the highest rates of persons with disability in Canada, but we are the least funded in all of Canada. At the same time, we have no act, so we represent a very large portion of the population with disabilities and no protection around services and commitment from government.”

Labour market trends are another reason an act is needed, he said. By 2014, a large number of people will be leaving the workforce while the number of people with disabilities who could be trained to enter the workforce will rise.

“The workforce is not ready because there are no services available to a lot of these workplaces and no training programs or transportational needs.”

A disability act would also enhance accessible housing, he said.

Thomas has already discussed the idea for the act with government officials and will request meetings with ministers.

“Right now I have only started the formalization of information, looking at statistics. The next step would be to meet with the government to lobby and press on these issues,” Thomas said.

During Wednesday’s meeting he also provided an update on the CBRM accommodation policy, which he said has been working very effectively.

Since the CBRM is one of the first municipalities to implement such a policy, the Halifax Regional Municipality and municipalities in New Brunswick have requested information.

Thomas also informed the group that he is now the chair of a Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities committee that is developing a diversity strategy for the province.

gmcneil@cbpost.com

Reproduced from http://www.capebretonpost.com/News/Local/2012-03-04/article-2915220/Disability-act-could-ease-budget-cuts,-says-diversity-officer/1