Reforms

Although positive changes have been made over time, there are still several areas in which reform is needed for disabled persons to be equal members of society, with the support required to live happy, thriving lives. 

 
 
 
 
 

Drawing on input from self-advocates, disability organizations, and allies, here are issues have been identified as areas for reform to ensure that disabled persons in BC can live happy, healthy, barrier-free lives.

 

Is there an issue that you think should be added to this list? Get in touch with spencer@bcdisability.com, and let us know what you think!

Reform List

Increase Disability Assistance

Make permanent increases to disability assistance payments

Despite increases in recent years, the limited amount of income and disability assistance still make it difficult to meet basic needs. Further, while there has also been an increase to the earning exemption--the amount someone can make before it starts being deducted from their PWD payments--many persons with disabilities are not in a situation to work, and hence this increase does little to help them.

In April 2020, the provincial government introduced a $300 COVID-19 supplement for income assistance and disability assistance recipients, which was set for a 3-month period and extended through December 2020. While this was helpful, it is only a very short-term measure, even though the struggle that persons on disability assistance have to make ends meet will continue well beyond December. 

 

By making the $300 supplement permanent, adding it to the normal PWD payments, persons on disability assistance would be be able to meet basic needs, instead of choosing between essentials like food, medication, rent, and utilities.

Affordable Accessible Housing

Increase the availability of affordable, accessible housing through collaboration between provincial government, municipalities, and developers

Housing affordability continues to be one of the biggest challenges for people and families across the province. This is a particular challenge for people with disabilities given low disability assistance payments and the lack of accessible housing supply, with accessibility pertaining to physical spaces, social fit, and proximity to community resources and services. The shortfall of accessible housing has become an even greater issue when public health directives are encouraging people to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

 

Increasing available housing that is affordable and accessible requires provincial and municipal governments to work together, and with developers, to build accessibly, find and purchase the right spots for development, and invest the funds needed to achieve this. Disabled persons make good tenants, as compared to many persons living in social housing they rarely engage in risky behaviours and have strong family support networks. It is important for this to be stressed to developers and government as the push for affordable accessible housing continues. 

 

More Support for Caregivers

Increase funding for caregivers to cover rising expenses, as well as to pay for respite homes and workers.

With the onset of the pandemic, day programming has been cancelled for many disabled persons. This has resulted in home-share providers and caregivers working nearly non-stop to provide services to clients . The outcomes have been mental and physical burnout, as well as financial strain. Contracts for home-share providers have not accounted for the extra time and resources required to provide care during the pandemic. 

While some additional funding was provided to caregivers on a short-term basis, it has now been cancelled. There needs to be a resumption of these funds in order for caregivers to afford increased expenses, and to provide more relief workers and respite homes that will allow caregivers a break to recharge, cut burdensome costs, and ultimately provide better care.

 

Community Care

Increase community care options for disabled persons, and include them extensively in the consultation process

A related issue is that people with disabilities who live in their own homes often struggle to find visiting care workers. This has become a greater problem during the pandemic, as disabled persons living without proper supports put their health at risk as they try to manage with less support than they need. Working-aged adults with disabilities who have no other care option than to live in long term care facilities are faced with care that is designed for seniors, and does not meet their needs. 

There must be a broadening of living options for persons who need live-in care, these must be age-appropriate, and disable persons must be consulted extensively in the development process.

 

Truly Inclusive Education 

Make disability--including the study of disability as an advocacy movement and socially imposed barrier--a more prominent part of school curriculum. Require teachers-to-be to complete coursework on working with disabled students. Improve financial and academic support for students with disabilities. 

 

Disability, as a social construct, advocacy movement, and something which affects millions of people, is conspicuously absent as a topic of study. Further, the amount of education and training teachers receive in working with disabled students is minimal or non-existent, resulting in an inadequate quality of education for disabled students, as well as contributing to negative attitudes among teachers towards inclusive education. Disability issues thus remain off the radar and misinformation about disability abounds, even among educators. 

 

Curriculum within schools should make disability a greater issue of focus, and, in particular, highlight the role of society in shaping beliefs, attitudes, and practices towards disabled persons. Teaches to be should also be required to complete at least 1 course in working with disabled students, to better prepare them for supporting these students in inclusive classrooms. 

Another issue is that student loans, scholarships, and course timelines often fail to account for the extra financial costs and time required for disabled students to complete their studies, resulting in these students receiving inadequate support to excel in their education pursuits, and, by extension, later career pursuits. 

Accessibility Legislation

Pass robust provincial accessibility legislation with strong enforcement mechanisms  

British Columbians with disabilities routinely experience barriers to accessing housing, employment, transportation, and other services. The federal government recently introduced accessibility legislation which govern areas under federal jurisdiction. The BC government has committed to provincial accessibility legislation, and conducted consultations on new laws, standards, and policies to better support people with disabilities to live with dignity and to meaningfully participate in their communities. 

 

While passing the legislation is a big step in the right direction, enforcement of accessibility legislation will be the key to ensuring that improvements are made in the lives of disabled persons, and that accessibility legislation is not merely words on paper.

 

Comprehensive Assistive Equipment Program

Establish a provincial program for assistive devices and medical equipment

BC needs a comprehensive program for assistive devices and medical equipment for people with disabilities.

Most financial assistance available for adults for these devices is through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction for people who qualify for PWD and other categories of income support. People with disabilities that do not qualify for these restrictive programs are left to purchase expensive medical equipment on their own or seek help from non-profits and charities.

 

In its report following the 2021 budget consultation, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services recommended that the government invest in a comprehensive program for assistive devices and medical equipment for people with disabilities. This recommendation needs to be acted on.

Issues Main Page