By Steve Sharratt
THE GUARDIAN

MONTAGUE — (March 2007) A disability advocate and capital city Rotarian has urged his colleagues to press the provincial government to reform the Disability Support Program
that was cut by $1 million last year.

“Harsh new rules were introduced to contain costs and we need reforming of the program to end human rights abuses and help all Islanders with disabilities” said Stephen Pate, a charter member of the Montague club and retired businessman.

Pate was guest speaker at Montague Rotary club this week and cited the need to recognize and help those with a disability, which includes almost 19,000 Islanders.

“According to Statistics Canada, one in seven Islanders has a disability or 14.4 per cent and that makes them one of the largest minorities the population,” he said.

Pate said people with disabilities are members of clubs like Rotary go to church, work have families and participate in life. But he said the quality of their life is often ignored and eroded through social policies.

“Loss of hearing requiring a hearing aid is a disability.” he said. “A limp isn’t a walking disability, but a mobility problem requiring a cane, crutches or wheelchair certainly is. Disabilities are implicitly long term.”

Pate is a Paul Harris Fellow, who has worked on the Polio Plus and Easter Seals committees. He is a retired businessman who went from accountant to forming Island Computer and Aquilium Software.

Since his disability in 1999, he has worked for various organizations of advocacy.

In 2001 P.E.I. inaugurated the Disability Support Program and Pate said that agreement included assistive devices and technical aids, community access, transportation access, employment and education supports, Home care, respite care.

“It was comprehensive in scope but severely under-funded and the money was stretched too thin.”

To an existing budget of $5 million and 150 recipients, the government added $1.6 million in new money, he said, but faced 800 more applicants and excluded seniors.

“Problems started appearing right away with a flurry of Human Rights Commission and privacy cases. In fact, 50 per cent of all complaints to these two bodies are related to the DSP.