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Right Some Ironic, Eh?

I took my sister down to Lunenburg July 5th to see the exhibit at the Lunenburg Art Gallery.  Mary Garoutte, who is an extremely talented artist, has a show.  I remembered getting into the gallery years ago with my wheelchair, but I was disappointed this time.

While I waited in the doorway, I learned that the Lunenburg Art Gallery is a major holder of works by Earl Bailly (1903 - 1977), a much admired  Nova Scotia painter who happened to have had polio and painted with a brush held in his mouth.  The gallery website has a couple for sale at $2,000 each.

I quite like his paintings - in the style of Marsden Hartley and his fellow Monhegan artists - Hopper or Wyeth.

Bailley used a wheelchair.  Here he is with a young Princess Elizabeth

The Lunenburg Art Gallery has no wheelchair access.  The nice docent said they used to have a ramp, but "the authorities" made them remove it because it wasn't up to code.  Catch-22 made manifest.

This is so typical of government - passive-agressive-perfectionism.  Punishing the victim.  Last year, I complimented the province for its Solomonic handling of Speaker Kevin Murphy's ramp in Province House, but now I take it back in the face of this idiocy in Lunenburg.  Murphy gets his ramp, but in the exact same situation, a business is penalized and tourists are discouraged.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, owner of a painting by Baillly, could not visit the gallery.  Bailly himself couldn't see his paintings.  This gallery has a clear message:  Buyers with wheelchairs not welcome.

Here's the thing Bluenosers:  accessibility can sell paintings, encourage visits, maybe even make you famous.  But when you screw it up, it can drive people away.  

Whoever "the authorities" are need to get over themselves.  They're costing people business.

2015 James McGregor Stewart Award

We proudly announce that Sarah Dube is the winner of the 2015 James McGregor Stewart Award.

left to right
Speaker Kevin Murphy, Rod MacLennan, Angela Bishop, Sarah Dube, Gus Reed

In a  ceremony on June 30th, Jim Stewart's 126th birthday, Sarah was presented with a $1000 cheque by Speaker Murphy.

The Award recognizes leadership, effective advocacy and outstanding personal achievement of a person with a disability.  “The award honours the resolve shown by Stewart”, says Warren Reed, a co-founder of the Society.  “In Sarah our selection committee found a person that, like Stewart, leads and excels regardless of barriers”.

Sarah has been an active advocate for accessibility since 1995, first with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and then as a Board member of Independent Living Nova Scotia. She now co-chairs that organization and is a passionate advocate for young adults.  As a student she was a champion for improved campus accessibility and a founding member of Students for Teaching Peace.  She completed King’s College’s challenging Foundation Year Program and graduated with a combined honours BA in contemporary studies and history.  This spring Sarah received her Master of Planning degree from Dalhousie University.

Sarah is well-known in the community. Steve Estey, one of Sarah’s references, says “Sarah is a wise and thoughtful young woman with a deep commitment to the human rights of people with disabilities and indeed to the community at large.”

The Award recognizes the spirit of Mr. James McGregor Stewart who overcame many barriers, despite a disability resulting from polio. First in his class at Dalhousie Law School in 1914, he was also President of the Students' Council. He was shortlisted for the Rhodes Scholarship but was not successful, due to concerns expressed about his physical condition. Nevertheless, Stewart went on to head a Halifax law firm that became the present day Stewart McKelvey. He was Chairman of Dalhousie's Board of Governors.  In 2000, Canadian Lawyer magazine named him as one of Canada’s ten greatest lawyers.

A crew from Accessible Media filmed the event.  Links will be posted soon.

The Award was established by friends of the Society through the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia, an organization that supports philanthropy across the province.

How employing people with disabilities makes money - Part II

What frosts me most about inaccessible businesses is that a person with a disability could never work in one. For the moment, I don't need the services of the Nova Scotia Legal Information Society, but it's inexcusable that a perfectly qualified person using a wheelchair couldn't get a job there.

Last post, we determined that there are something like 14,300 Nova Scotians with disabilities, ages 15 to 64, not currently working who could be.

If they were employed, they'd be paying $59,108,041 in taxes and saving taxpayers $143,000,000 a year in income support. That's $202,108,041 or $14,133 each.  Annually and forever.    Add in federal tax of $79,768,709 and the total is $281,876,750. Pretty soon, you're talking real money.

No one has contacted me with better figures or any objection on principle. So let's start with those numbers.

People with disabilities want to work, be self sufficient and not live in near-poverty. What keeps this from happening is a combination of government policy disincentives and unsuitable workplaces. 

I challenge “Step Up Nova Scotia”, the latest child of the Ivany Report to become "Ramp Up Nova Scotia".  

Let's think of a way to reward people moving from disability support into the workforce, help employers who hire them, and relieve taxpayers whose generosity has supported them. There are any number of ways to do this, so here's my thought. For anyone receiving Services for People with Disabilities who has no employment income, we'll do this once:
  • $500 one time to job applicant for extraordinary expenses 
    • Clothing 
    • Wheelchair seatcover 
    • text-to-speech software for iPhone
    • Transportation 
  • If necessary, $2,000 to employer for new job accommodations related to the particular employee 
    • business Skype 
    • a wheel-under desk 
    • a Braille printer 
    • Screen-reader 
  • If necessary, a $2,000 grant to employer for modifications for public access (can be combined for multiple hires and supplemented with a forgivable loan) 
    • a ramp 
    • accessible toilet 
    • designated parking 
  • $2,500 to employee on first anniversary of hiring 
  • $7,133 savings to taxpayer 
If the employer does not offer supplemental health benefits, including drugs, the province will continue to provide.

There are tremendous benefits to linking accessibility with employment. It's an incentive for employers, taxpayers and job-seekers alike. It has immediate and tangible rewards. It has lasting implications for the general public. It's transparent, voluntary and incremental. It strengthens the case against counterproductive by-laws. It makes accessible transportation a necessity.  It saves a ton of money.

All I'm asking is that this approach gets considered and refined.  It doesn't require up-front appropriations - each participant is self-funding and saves taxpayers over $7,000.  What's the problem with knowing more?  It can't be worse than wasting human capital.

Most of all, it fulfills a promise:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.