Disability advocates share ideas as B.C. government starts consultation

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The B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation has used the International Day of Persons with Disabilities to launch a consultation process through which they will gather public input for a disability white paper to be published in June 2014.

Beginning today (December 3), the ministry is inviting the public to participate in conversations on a website, host their own discussion group and submit it to government, and attend one of several in-person community consultations scheduled to start on January 20.

“This is something that affects almost every British Columbian at some point in their lives,” said Don McRae, minister of social development and social innovation, in a news release. “We all have a stake and a role to play – family, friends, communities, employers, non-profits, and governments. This consultation gives us the opportunity to work together toward becoming the most progressive place for people with disabilities to live in Canada."

For organizations who deal with people with disabilities in the province, the opportunity to discuss methods of reducing barriers is overdue. Heather Lamb, who works on the information line for Spinal Cord Injury B.C., sees accessibility and affordability as an overarching issue.

"The highest number of calls have been about accommodation, specifically accessible and/or affordable housing," Lamb told the Straight by phone.

While callers are directed to resources such as B.C. Housing or the organization's website, she has had to deal with the lack of choice. "What we've been noticing is that people are looking for many, many months, if not years for appropriate housing because there simply isn't a lot out there."

Lamb said she is hopeful for the future with the recent adoption in Vancouver of a new building bylaw that makes accessibility part of original construction design.

"Ideally, it would be nice to see that spread to other jurisdictions because over time that is going to make a difference," Lamb said.

Fernando Coelho, CEO of posAbilities, told the Straight, "Affordability is a problem for anyone in Vancouver, not only for people with disabilities, but we have a disproportionate share of that problem."

During a phone interview, Coelho noted the situation is increased in the disability community with the double challenge of living on a fixed income and employment barriers. In terms of accessibility, he said, the organization is dealing with an aging client population.

"We have lots of homes that are Vancouver specials and those are not accessible in any way, shape, or form," Coelho said.

People are unable to age in place, according to Coelho. "The choices are very limited, compounded by the fact that if there is choice it's a very expensive choice."

Coelho would like the province to look at its housing mandate and how it can work with community, private and public, to meet the needs of a changing society.

"It's an aging society," Coelho said. "It's a society where people with disabilities are full participants in their community, so how does their mandate capture all of those needs in the 21st century?"

Jill Weiss, chair of City of Vancouver's persons with disabilities advisory committee, and an advocate for Vancouver's new building bylaw, told the Straight she would ask the province to step up in two areas. The first is, she said by phone, a no-institutions policy for people with disabilities, together with a strong home-support program to provide assistance for people with disabilities so that they can live effectively in the community.

"One of the things that the Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] says is that people with disabilities have the right to live in the community with the same range of choices as everyone else. In other words, they can not be confined to an institution," Weiss explained, adding that the convention states that governments also have the "responsibility to provide appropriate assistance, including home support, so that they're actually able to live in the community."

The second area would be in general access. "They need a visitable housing bylaw," Weiss said. "This would mean that every dwellng would have wider doors and halls, a main-floor washroom that is accessible with a wheelchair, and a no-step entrance to at least one entrance. These changes would make remove all barriers to accessibility."

The public will have the opportunity to participate in the consultation process until May 2014.  The results of that input will be published in the disability white paper sometime in June 2014.  A provincial summit will follow on a date yet to be determined.

Along with the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation's consultation process, the public can participate in a housing survey initiated by Spinal Cord Injury B.C. 

Comments (8) Add New Comment
PAUL CAUNE

If you do not have a practical means to enforce the civil rights you have on paper, you don't have civil rights. Many disabled British Columbians do not have the practical means to enforce the civil rights guaranteed to Canadian citizens in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This allows the BC government and the private sector to violate the freedom and dignity of disabled people with impunity.

Americans with disabilities were forced by their daily experiences to conclude that they had no practical means to get the civil rights they have under the US Constitution enforced—with terrible consequences for their freedom and dignity.

What did they do about this injustice? They chose not to be victims. They chose to get organized and to act with clarity, focus and persistence. And after much hard work, they persuaded the Congress of the United States to make a law to protect the civil rights of Americans with disabilities.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed twenty-three years ago. It is by no means perfect, nor has it solved all the problems Americans with disabilities have in common. But it has been used by the US federal government against state governments and the private sector to force them to stop violating the civil rights of disabled American citizens.

BC has no equivalent to the ADA. And we will never get one if we allow our government to waste our time.

BC's Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, recently released a report titled “When Talk Trumped Service: A Decade of Lost Opportunity for Aboriginal Children and Youth in BC”.

After a meticulous investigation Judge Turpel-Lafond concluded:

“There has been a significant expenditure on “talking” [for ten years]– with virtually no involvement by Aboriginal children and youth themselves – and without a single child being actually served...To be blunt, a significant amount of money has gone to people who provide no program or service to directly benefit children.”

I predict that future historians of the “consultation process” launched by the Government of BC on the December 3rd, 2013 International Day of Persons With Disabilities will come to a similar conclusion.
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TerminalCityGirl
While I agree physical access is an important issue I would like to see conversations on people with disabilities include all of the other sorts of disabilities that people have that perhaps are not only mobility-related. I think people living with "invisible" disabilities is a growing population in need of attention, people with mental health or chronic conditions face different types of barriers but have many of the same issues as mobility-challenged folks around lack of support, employment opportunities, fixed income, stable housing and high health care costs for medication and therapies.
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brain injured
TerminalCityGirl is right, also what happened to discussion on brain injured? I've seen monies disappear to a 'consultant service provider' with no recognizable translation to the client. I don't wish to take away from legitimate entities but dollars are scarce. Disability payments are so low it makes it very difficult for the recipient to maintain a decent existance. Diminished social skills, memory issues are often the order of the day with the brain injured.

http://www.bcbraininjuryassociation.com/education/
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Deborah Frolek
I believe there needs to be a stronger and more strategic focus on what persons with challenges can do and less consideration and attention given to what they cannot do.
More emphasis is necessary on direct service provision and less funding given to people for talking about services.
Access and inclusion is paramount.
All Service planning for individuals with special needs must include as a primary focus, individual strengths and an emphasis on Social Role Valorization.
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VanQuad
Paul Caune is absolutely correct. Canadians with disabilities need ADA type civil rights guarantees.

BC citizens with disabilities also need personal supports that don't disappear the minute they get a moderate paying job. In the long run they will pay back these supports through tax remittances.
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Cathy Grant
Well said, Paul Caune ! Also good on you Deborah and VanQuad! I am in total agreement with all of you. Accessibility is necessary and somewhat simple to attain but without Civil Rights - where are we ? Where are we going? How do we get people to change their thinking - especially those who can make it happen ?
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Kathy
My focus currently is obtaining employment.

I am incredibly frustrated but applying for work and although employers say "we want persons to self identify" but whenever I haven't I get an interview when I do, I don't get the interview. Coincedence?
I know the Federal & Provincial governments have employment equity but I get INTO their "hiring pool" and don't move.
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Linda
I think the Georgia Straight needs to research the BC Liberal government's consultation with PLWD and write another article regarding this issue. For instance, PLWD weren't necessarily consulted re the consultation processes and this is paternalism; joining the conversation http://engage.gov.bc.ca/disabilitywhitepaper/ omits raising welfare rates for PLWD; employment seems the focus and the Minister's Council states it is 'informed by the UK model' re PLWD.http://www.hsd.gov.bc.ca/epwd/docs/action-plan-framework.pdf The UK model isn't really successful and caused loss of dignity and hardship to PLWD http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2013/dec/01/the-big-issue-sicknes... http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/09/atos-disabled-peopl...
I would think the Georgia Straight could report upon this issue with a more comprehensive article that not only presents the Ministry of Social Development's view--which you did already-- but also the view of PLWD.
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