You Call This a Break

The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, made much adieu this past week regarding increases to disability income assistance.   In the Budget speech the provincial Finance Minister, Michael DeJong, stated “This won’t eliminate the challenges those living with disabilities face, and it won’t suddenly make life easier, but we hope it will make life a little less hard“.   That statement is not only a joke but another slap in the face to the most marginalized of the community of persons with disabilities.

The biggest challenge facing most people living with a disability are governments that are so out of touch with reality it hurts.  And it is hurting the most vulnerable.  This is the first increase in British Columbia for persons with disabilities needing financial aid since 2007.  Meanwhile the inflation rate in Canada has been steadily rising by approximately 2% per year since 2007 with no funding increases for any disability related costs.

Current and proposed changes to BC disability benefits
This is the type of support the most vulnerable receive

The chart to the left is from the Times Columnist writer Michael J. Prince so you tell me, could you live on this?  I am very lucky in that I have been able to work most of my life so I have a bit of a pension.  The isn’t true of every person with a disability and, unfortunately, the ones most dependent on this income support are also the most vulnerable of our community.

You can’t find a regular apartment let alone a wheelchair accessible one with these rates.  And if you complain, well they who control the purse strings have a lot of control over your life.  This is true in the labour force and even more so in the social safety net arena.

A person isn’t living on these rates, they are simply existing.  If your employer gave you a $77/month raise but then turned around and clawed back $52/month of that raise so they could charge you for parking you would probably be looking for a new job.  Unfortunately the individuals having to accept this “magnanimous” gift from Premier Clark don’t have that luxury.  And I don’t see any relief on the horizon for anyone living with a disability in this province.

Due to certain lacking aspects of the National Building Code the Canadian Home Builders Association have developed their own set of standards.  These standards are focused on the development of buildings (residential and commercial) when it comes to adaptability and access.  In British Columbia a section of this code that deals with “adaptable” units in multi-unit buildings has given municipalities the right to require these standards by passing a bylaw.  This also includes public places like restaurants.

I was in an Original Joe’s last night for supper and the place had two tables that were wheelchair height.  There were probably fifty bar high tables and personally my days of having my food served at eye level are long behind me.  The restaurant tells me they were never made aware of this type of accessibility.  They were of the impression that because they had an automatic door opener and an accessible bathroom they met all the standards.  Well what good are those standards when there is really no place to sit and eat.  Original Joe’s was very good about however I really need to ask City Planning how much advice are they giving to developers?

Unfortunately the City of Nanaimo planning department does not make developers or restaurants aware of these needs.  The building I live in is less than four years old and isn’t really accessible even though they are required to have a percentage of suites that meet these standards.  So even when you can afford it, you can’t find accessible suites because the City isn’t ensuring they get incorporated into new developments.  So if I have a hard time finding an affordable and accessible place to live what chance does someone have that is receiving less than a $1000/month.  I ask you Madam Premier, how has your government improved the life of persons with disabilities?

We don't want to enable you, we want you to be independent
We don’t want to enable you, we want you to be independent

I attended a community roundtable meeting in Feb 2014 while I was still in Kelowna.  The provincial government was doing another of their dog and pony shows to develop a “white paper” aimed at making BC the most accessible and user friendly province in the country for persons with disabilities.  I heard the same concerns at those same types of meeting in the 1980’s and then again in the 1990’s.  How does paying private consultants to travel around the province collecting “free” information/ideas from the people that live with this day to day help anyone?

On behalf of those who can’t do it themselves, thank you Premier Clark for attempting to score political points off the backs of the vulnerable.  I’m sure this will be remembered.

Just one man’s opinion!


One thought on “You Call This a Break

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