Surviving is a struggle for persons with disabilities and the government must do far better
September 9th, 2022
A British Columbian woman tells her story of trying to survive on PWD assistance, and urges the government to do more for people in need.
My name is Kate and I am writing to you from Ladysmith. I am a PWD.
I have Chiari Malformation, a structural defect in the skull that causes part of the brain to push into the spinal canal. Constant, severe headaches, numbness in my limbs, loss of muscle control, coordination issues, dizziness, and fainting are the symptoms I experience most often.
I also have Early-onset osteoarthritis, A.D.H.D., anxiety, depression and several food and environmental allergies including a reaction to sunlight.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with cancer which is currently being managed with medications. I tell you this so you have a basic knowledge of where I am coming from, where many PWD are coming from.
A MEAL A DAY
The current level of support received by PWD in BC is not enough.
I have not eaten more than a single meal per day in nearly a year. Breakfast is water or —when it is on sale— tea. Lunch usually consists of more tea or water.
I have not eaten more than a single meal per day in nearly a year
Sometimes I have a few crackers with cheese, which I should not do because I am lactose intolerant but lactose free options are well beyond my budget.
At dinner I try to ensure I have a protein, a carb such as potatoes or rice and some vegetables. Some days, due to budget, that is not possible.
Due to chronic dietary shortages my doctor has me taking B12, Magnesium, Calcium, and D3 to counteract malnutrition.
There should be more but my budget does not have room for them. She has even gone so far as to include these items on my prescriptions. Disability assistance does not cover them.
I take two different antihistamines every day because of the allergies I mentioned. That is the lowest dose which has proven effective and I take them every day. If I don't my skin becomes so itchy I would happily scratch it off just to make it stop.
I have frequently scratched to the point of bleeding. It's hard to adequately describe unless you have experienced something similar. The itching is so bad the pain of raw, bleeding skin is a welcome relief. Disability assistance does not cover my antihistamines.
Disability assistance also does not cover my sunscreen which I must have to go outside without extreme pain and my skin developing welts where it was exposed to sun. Sunscreen is expensive and I can't afford it, so I don't go outside.
I am in a constant state of heightened anxiety. I spend more time than I am comfortable with searching for ways to stretch what money I do get.
Can I lower bills somewhere? Is there something going on sale that I need (food, supplements, etc) that would make sense to juggle money around and maybe pay a bill later in order to save a few dollars on a necessity?
I spend more time than I am comfortable with searching for ways to stretch what money I do get
If I put off a bill in order to save that money will it result in late payment fees that will be more than I saved? Is this going to be the month where I have to cut back on something else because rising prices mean the money that was already falling far short of the basics is shorter still?
I am out of things to cut back on. Yesterday, when I went to add frozen mixed vegetables to my shopping list, I cried. The bag I bought last month for $4.00 is now $5.29. I do not buy new clothes. I have 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts —only 1 of which is in good enough condition to wear anywhere but at home— and 1 pair of shoes.
"I am out of things to cut back on"
Poverty is relentless. It is a constant, nagging, oppressing force that never lets up. I am not ashamed to admit I have wondered why I keep trying, why I don't just stop fighting and give up.
Suicidal ideation due to a complete lack of other options is a reality for many PWD in BC, myself included. That we were placed in this situation by a failure of our own government is unacceptable and inexcusable.
I URGE YOU
Poor and disabled people have been living in an ongoing crisis of poverty, inaccessibility and injustice for far too long, which has been maintained by provincial legislation and policy. I urge you to:
1. Raise BC disability assistance rates to at least $1800 monthly
2. Permanently raise disability assistance and income assistance rates to at least the poverty line, indexed to inflation; and
3. Ensure that increases to income assistance and disability assistance include a clear, earmarked increase to the shelter portion.
This is not sustainable. It is within your power to correct this. Do better.