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Judging a book by its cover

OneNS, in its enthusiastic web presence, says:


Back in the day, when I worked at Harvard College Admissions, we were very aware of the power of images.  So in our brochures, we took care to show students from a variety of backgrounds in a variety of situations.  This included an avoidance of stereotypes, thus anticipating the current problems at the University of Missouri and the University of North Carolina, where African American students are frequently asked "What sport do you play?" and Asian Americans are asked "So where are you from?"

People pay attention to images.  I once had a professor who said "If you can't count it, it doesn't exist."  I've learned to doubt that, but I still love to count things.

If you accept that the main picture on the website of OneNS has some purpose  - to be welcoming, maybe just showing real people doing real things, or the unspoken agenda of the creators, then the images have meaning.  I counted the images and the people shown.

Here's my tally.  My wife Lynne counted separately, and we disagreed by two:


65 images of people, 69% men, 30% women, 74% white, 26% Nonwhite.

For the 18 members of the OneNS Coalition, it looks like this:


In the 2006 census, Nova Scotia was 93.2% white, so the OneNS picture and the makeup of the coalition are both optimistically diverse and welcoming in that respect.  I know for a fact that Nova Scotia is more than half female, so women are vastly underrepresented.  Good luck with that, guys.

Canadians swoon over the precise demographic slicing of the Trudeau Cabinet, but Nova Scotians see a different picture.

The absence of people with identifiable disabilities is striking.  If OneNS intends to include people with disabilities in the future of Nova Scotia, it's easy enough to add a representative picture or person.  I don't actually know if any of the coalition members  is a person with a disability, probably not.  Not to say members don't have personal experience with disability - a child, a parent, a friend - or even a direct relationship like New Dawn Enterprises.  That's just not good enough.  The 18.8% of Nova Scotians who have a disability aren't directly represented in the lineup.  

What's needed is a person sitting right there in front of the other members, saying "How's that going to help people with disabilities?"  or "Can the much-touted crowdfunding initiative be tweaked a bit to help get people off social assistance?"  Questions that would never occur to job creators.

There are any number of Nova Scotians with a disability whose achievements are extraordinary.  Community activists, athletes, politicians, businesspeople.  It's hard to imagine a plausible reason why they aren't included in the future of the province.  Ignorance?  Oversight?  Complaisance?

I know, I know.  You really didn't mean it. Then you better fix it.  The failure to include people with disabilities highlights the inherent bias of the report.  Time to reboot.

More soon.


Woozles on Birmingham Street
Portable ramps are a good idea.  They're cheap, unregulated and effective.  Still, there are times when a portable ramp won't do:  a step over a few inches high, a busy doorway, a permanent need by a resident.

All the ramp talk finally got me to read the encroachment by-law that Liz Crocker of Woozles, Canada's oldest children's bookstore, complained about.  It says:
License Required
 3 No person shall construct or maintain any encroachment or make use of a street (defined to include sidewalks) for construction or restoration purposes in the municipality unless an encroachment license has been issued by the municipality.
I guess there's no getting around the fact that HRM owns the sidewalks.  Does the ownership have a purpose, or is it just a source of revenue?

Permitted encroachments are listed exhaustively and alphabetically:
(i) A structure includes any building, bridge, pedway, balcony, bay window, elevator, fence, foundation wall, grating, hatch, hatchway, loading platform, manhole, porch, portico, railing, retaining wall, sign attached to a building, step, storage tank, tunnel, vault, veranda, or any part thereof; 
At first I thought "Good for Woozles - a ramp isn't on the list, so they should get their money back." On sober reflection, I think "Bad for wheelchairs, because ramps aren't even permitted structures."

There must be an interpretation somewhere in that alternate reality known as 'Municipal Compliance' that ramps fall under the category of steps or pedways or something.  It allows inspectors to grant permits to build Woozle-like ramps.  Such an interpretation would make a ramp OK for an inspector to approve on their own:
the following may be issued by the Inspector without the authorization of Council:
(iii) steps, foundations and other structures - for buildings where steps, foundations and other building features must encroach, or where an encroachment already exists, the area of encroachment may be increased provided there is no additional encroachment toward the curb for a period of 5 years, renewable after inspection; 
I've often wondered what you would do if you lived in a charming old Halifax house and developed a need for a ramp.  At 1336 Birmingham, say, just down the way from Woozles.  Would the inspector say "No, you can only have a portable ramp."  That seems cruel, and a little perverse.  After you leave the house in your wheelchair, what do you do with the ramp?  This seems like a must encroach situation - even veteran inspectors of Mother's Pizza wouldn't keep you out of your own house.  Surely!
1336 Birmingham
My favorite example is of the newly minted Schulich lawyer who is a wheelchair user graduating at the top of her class.  She decides that the best use of her talents, and the best way to pay off her crushing debt is to work at the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia at 5523 Young.  She is hired as Assistant Director.  LISNS (Listens!  Get it?) applies to build an encroaching ramp.  Does HRM say no?  Condemning her to take her talent to Ontario?
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia 

If you believe the Mayor, Game Changers is the thing.  How does HRM's encroachment by-law, which never heard of ramps, change the game for wheelchair users?  It's all happy talk, as Contrarian is fond of saying.

Sometimes government is boring and prosaic.  HRM needs to do the unglamorous work of removing physical and virtual barriers for people with disabilities.  Ramps should be must encroach structures.  HRM should remove encroachment fees for ramps at businesses and for homeowners trying to age-in-place.   A top to bottom review of by-laws would reveal many barriers, unintended or not, that should be abandoned or changed.

Gerry Post, a member of HRM's Accessibility Advisory Committee, has proposed that HRM take care of issues it can deal with completely on its own.  This is a good example.  It's entirely within their power to change the by-law.

The upcoming accessibility legislation, if it as much of a game-changer as it is meant to be, will force this change.  Why wait?

Woozles and Heffalumps

Yesterday on 'Ask Mayor Savage', Liz Crocker of Woozles, Canada's oldest children's book store, called in to inquire about tax relief for small business. She also wondered, by the way, why she had an encroachment fee on her tax bill for her spiffy ramp.

His Worship explained patiently that a ramp would impede wheelchairs from otherwise using the sidewalk, so HRM was encouraging the use of portable ramps and had partnered with Parker Street Skills Development Centre to offer ramps at cost to businesses.

Then the Mayor's trousers spontaneously combusted.  

He burned completely up, and the litter patrol swept up the pile of ashes and deposited it in the trash.

The Princess's tax bill was marked Paid and we all lived happily ever after!

The End


As you can see from the Google streetview, Woozle's ramp is a very attractive, harmonious and unobtrusive addition to the front of a rather lovely old Halifax building.  Since it intrudes no further upon the right-of-way than the steps, it's no surprise the Mayor's drawers were smoking even before they caught fire.

Furthermore, there is no partnership with Parker Street.

The ending isn't happy after all.  Woozles is one of a very few small Halifax businesses where a kid with a wheelchair could be part of the fun, or a slightly older wheelchair user could actually get in to work.  HRM is actively discouraging employment of people with disabilities, which is illegal.  Illegal.  Let me say it again.  Illegal.  The relevant section of the Human Rights act is included at the end.

By discouraging employment of people with disabilities, HRM is costing taxpayers money.  A wheelchair user trying to get by on social assistance costs you about $10,000/year.  Imagine if they had a job and paid taxes instead!  Yet the heavy handed Heffalumps at HRM take special pleasure in enforcing arcane and counterproductive rules.  Part of their job seems to be to keep people with disabilities isolated and unemployed - it must be in their job description.
A Heffalump making sure Piglet doesn't get a ramp

Tuesday, coincidentally, the un-ignited mayor announced  the Game Changers Action Plan, challenging thousands of Halifax business leaders to hire youth and become Game Changers.

As HalifaxExaminer says of Game Changers (cover your ears children)

"More likely, it’s just the same old bullshit wrapped in new packaging."

Pooh and Piglet, following woozle tracks that turn out to be their own are like the HRM leadership - always announcing something new that turns out to be where we've been before.

Oh Pooh, do you think it a G-G-G-G-Game Changer?
Here's  what must be done:
  • Eeyore Butts needs to be instructed by Council to issue an order to Municipal Compliance rescinding most exceptions to the barrier-free requirements of the building code.
  • No encroachment fees will be levied for accessibility amenities.
  • All permit applications for accessibility amenities will be granted

Human Rights Act 

Meaning of discrimination 
4 For the purpose of this Act, a person discriminates where the person makes a distinction, whether intentional or not, based on a characteristic, or perceived characteristic, referred to in clauses (h) to (v) of subsection (1) of Section 5 that has the effect of imposing burdens, obligations or disadvantages on an individual or a class of individuals not imposed upon others or which withholds or limits access to opportunities, benefits and advantages available to other individuals or classes of individuals in society. 1991, c. 12, s. 1. 
Prohibition of discrimination 
5 (1) No person shall in respect of
(a) the provision of or access to services or facilities;
(d) employment;
discriminate against an individual or class of individuals on account of
(o) physical disability or mental disability; 

Oh yeah, and 

Act binds Crown 
21 This Act binds Her Majesty in right of the Province and every servant and agent of Her Majesty.

A Tip o' the Hatlo Hat to PBD