When we consider access to justice, it is easy to think of it as only a conceptual principle. In reality, physical barriers can frequently present barriers that make Courts, offices, and other places that facilitate justice inaccessible. As part of our work in the Equity and Access Office, identifying what physical barriers exist and working towards resolution is a crucial element of our work.
In an article titled Access to Justice and Persons with Disabilities, The Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre identifies what the principle means in the context of disability equity:
It means having the opportunity to participate in and live in a society whose structures and organizations include them. More narrowly, for persons with disabilities, access to justice means being able to invoke and participate in the justice system, obtaining a fair result when they do, and having their unique circumstances recognized and respected by the justice system. The justice system is not confined to court processes but applies to the entire system by which law and legal systems are designed, implemented, and operated.Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
In this context, the regulator must play an essential role in improving Access to Justice. The article explains how different disabilities may present unique barriers to access to justice and how the intersectional identities of persons with disabilities may compound these barriers. I encourage all of our members to read this article to understand the complexity of access to justice and how that intersects with disability equity. It is available here.
The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society is also currently examining our own physical and digital spaces through accessibility audits to ensure we are accommodating to individuals with disabilities and others who may have difficulty accessing our services and legal services without assistance.
We are currently updating the Equity Lens Toolkit to include accessibility resources. If you are currently looking for Practice resources surrounding accessibility, I encourage you to review our Practice Resource Search, which is available here.
The Equity and Access Office is also in the beginning stages of working with the Criminal Law Standards Committee to create a new criminal law cultural competency standard focusing on persons with disabilities. These are all ways that the Society and its Disability Equity Committee are improving access to justice in Nova Scotia, and we look forward to providing an update as these projects are completed.
— NSBS Equity and Access Office