Tag Archives | Ontario

A Downside to Closing Institutions?

The movement to close institutions for people with intellectual disabilities has a downside. Michelle Bach, institutionsexecutive-vice president of Canadian Association for Community Living told “The Globe and Mail” that housing is one of the largest issues for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. In Ontario alone,      12 000 people with intellectual disabilities are waiting for residential placements. Some have waited for decades, as their parents have aged and become less and less able to care for them.

Ontario put 1.7 billion dollars in the last year into developmental services and residential placements, but the  government throwing more and more money at the problem may not necessarily solve it, “The Globe and Mail” reported.


I Heart Closing Institutions!

For the record, I’m totally in favour of closing the institutions. Not just because they’ve got a horrific history of abuse and rights violations for the residents, but because by their very nature they put up so many barriers to having the residents participate fully in the community.  For example, when you’ve got a forty people in a building who want to go to church, doesn’t it make more sense to bring in a priest to do a service than to arrange the transportation, staff, etc. that would be required to get forty people to a church service?

I learned in school that it’s cheaper for the government to operate community homes in towns and cities than it is to operate institutions. Where is the money going from the completely closing Ontario’s institutions? Some of it came with the people who left the institutions, of course – and, from I’ve seen in my community of the people who’ve come to live here as the institutions were closed, was put to good use – but I think I assumed that closing the institutions would leave the sector with funding above and beyond what came with the individuals, so that  agencies could explore more community-based residential options.

Not Necessarily Group Homes, By The Way

Other residential options have proven successful, even for people with people with disabilities that we’d have traditionally thought too severe to allow the person to have his or her needs met in a community setting, such as these Ontario programs:

  • Assisted Living (living in a facility, but independently in  a room or small apartment, with whatever access to support the person and facility agree upon).
  • Enhanced Supported Independent Living (living with roommates in a house or apartment with 24-hour access to staff).
  • Supported Independent Living (living independently with mutually agreed-upon check-ins with staff when support is needed)
  • Family Share (Paying rent to live with a family that’s agreed to assist with support needs. Not a foster home environment)

Like I said, I remember hoping that there would be some more money for programs like these once the institutions closed. I also remember saying to someone, as the closure dates for the last institutions got closer, “I think it’s a great thing, but I hope we’re ready. I hope there are enough resources to go around.”

Bring In Some New Ideas!

I think that it’s a great (and necessary) thing that the non-profit sector is starting to develop ways of helping families to maximize their small amounts of  government funding to develop housing arrangements (and support arrangements in general). It represents a shift in how people with disabilities, their caregivers, and their support people  define, fund and use  “supports” that’s long overdue. The journey may not always be comfortable, and will definitely push us into uncharted territory. But we owe it to the 73% of working-age adults with intellectual disabilities who are living in poverty, and the parents well past retirement age who can no longer handle the needs of adult children with intellectual disabilities but must continue because there’s no other choice, to explore all the options.

More about this next week, when I review Donna Thomson’s book, “The Four Walls of My Freedom”.

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Why I Write About Welfare Benefit Reform in Britain

Welfare Benefit Reform: Tuesday

Well, it seems clear that Britain’s movement to fight welfare benefit reform and deep cuts to disability income supports suffered a major blow on Tuesday.


I don’t know all the particulars. I still don’t totally understand it all. I know that some legislation (which already went though at one level of government) to mitigate effects of the cuts on the children with disabilities was struck down at another.  Classy. I’ve been reading on Twitter about some awful language from the Conservative Members of Parliament about people with disabilities: “the great unwashed”, “retards”, people that think disability is a “lifestyle choice” and so forth.

Stay Strong, Britain…

I still don’t understand all  of what’s gone on here and what continues to go on. What’s struck me the most about the whole thing, and its plainly visible in the post of Sue Marsh’s to which I’ve posted (and the comments on it), is the desperation. Sue put together the Spartacus Report to try and show the British government the impact of the proposed welfare benefit reform, and has put countless hours into coordinating people and efforts even while hospitalized. I’ve read a lot of her stuff lately, and I don’t doubt her when she says that she’s not going to give up – but I’ve also never heard her sound so desperate.

Read this too from the woman who has been working with Sue. Desperate.


Why British Welfare Benefit Reform?

I’ve been asked why I’ve been writing on the welfare benefit reform situation in Britain. A lot of my Twitter followers (and the people I follow) are involved with the disability community in  Britain, so I see a lot about it. There seems to be a perception that people using Britain’s income supports are all “scroungers”, and the government seems determined to deal with the inevitable few who abuse the system by punishing everybody who uses it.

And you don’t have to understand all of it to appreciate that people are very, very frightened of losing support that allows them to live and being told to go out and find jobs when they legitimately can’t work.  As Sue says in her post, “Yes, even Blair backed down from sending cancer patients to the jobcentre.”  Apparently this government isn’t prepared to.

I write about what’s happening in Britain, to the best extent that I can, because I hear the “they’re all scroungers” attitude from politicians in Canada and the United States, too. It has reached a fever pitch recently, particularly in the United States with the election approaching.   I’ve heard Republicans talk about cutting food stamp programs, refer to people on social support programswelfare benefit reform as “raccoons” who will  just keep coming back as long as you feed them, and suggest that people with disabilities could have their needs met through the generosity of churches and community groups instead of  having them rely on income assistance.

In Ontario, monthly ODSP support still keeps individuals below the poverty line. And yet the focus on the very small amount of people who manage to abuse the system to get as much money out of it as they can, rather than the vast majority who can barely afford to both pay rent and eat each month.  I also remember, several years back now, when Ontario Premier Mike Harris declared that people make a choice to be homeless, which always leaps to mind for me when I read stuff like, “Disability is a lifestyle choice”.

What’s happening in Britain could easily happen in Canada or the United States, too. And yet I’ve not heard or seen one news story about it here.

I write about what’s happening in Britain with welfare benefit reform because it’s a current event that potentially affects us all. Disability news needs makes to make the world news too – let’s do what we can to make sure it does!

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Ontario’s New Photo Identification Card: A Needed Change

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Photo Card

Yesterday, Ontario joined eight other provinces that offer a photo identification card with an address for those over age 16 (not to be confused with the Ontario Health Insurance Plan photo card, which isn’t considered photo identification).

Life Without Photo Identification

After my brain AVM surgery, along with the stroke, I also started having seizures – full-body, falling-down, loss-of-consciousness seizures. As far as anyone could tell, they were happening due to scar tissue left in my head after the surgery. Another surgery to remove the scar tissue was discussed, but dismissed for various reasonsen (including the fact that I just couldn’t see the point of having another surgery when it was surgery that had caused the scarring to begin with). But because I was having seizures, my driver’s license was revoked.

I wasn’t prepared for how limiting this was going to be. In some ways, I felt the loss of my driver’s license more keenly than I did the restriction of movement on my left side. Even when I was feeling well enough to try and get out of the house a bit, I was dependent on my father for transportation, because there was no public transportation in our town. And when I was well enough to move closer to to town and walk there myself, I was still reliant on rides if I wanted to attend events or see friends who lived even a relatively short distance away. My father and friends have been wonderful about providing rides; even people in town have been great about giving me rides places if they see me on the ride. But it doesn’t compare to the freedom of having your own car.

On a purely practical note, not having my driver’s license puts me out of the running for most jobs in my field in the area. I was lucky that the most recent agency at which I worked went above and beyond to work with me on the transportation issue; it’s been an issue when seeking employment at other agencies.

The Things You Don’t Think About

Most people with intellectual disabilities with whom I’ve worked with don’t need a driver’s licence to drive, but they feel the inconvenience of not being able to get one as well. This new identity card is going to be great for them.

I didn’t know these things, because I was 22 when my license was revoked and then I just used my passport and a phone bill, if necessary…but many of the people I’ve supported haven’t had a passport, and  you need some sort of photo identification to:

  • Open a bank account
  • Vote
  • Rent a video/DVD (depending on store)
  • Book a hotel room
  • Cash a cheque
For youth especially, as they prepare for adulthood (whether they have disabilities or not; plenty of kids without disabilities don’t get a driver’s license, for various reasons) the first item on the list is especially problematic.

Creating Opportunities

As a person who can’t hold a driver’s license, I will be applying for this card. I don’t like carrying my passport everywhere with me, but I’ve long been uncomfortable with the idea of having no photo identification. Creating this new photo identification card is a good move for the Ontario government, and an excellent way for people who can’t/choose not to have a driver’s license to ensure, from the age that people become licensed drivers, that they have access to the other rights enjoyed by people who do have a driver’s license.
See  http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/driver/photo-card.shtml for more information on the new photo identification card.
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