Poor timing for the disabled


The P.E.I. Government’s Disability Services Review Committee has scheduled public consultations at night in the middle of winter. Their decision will put the lives and health of Islanders with disabilities at risk for no reason.

One night in February, I left the house to get some supper. Winter has been particularly hard this year but the night was calm, a light snow was falling. There was just a whisp of snow on the driveway

As I stepped toward the car, my feet lost their footing. The skiff of snow turned the ice into a slick pad. I slammed down hard on the driveway, smashing my hand and forearm on the black ice.

The pain shot up my shoulder into my spine and head. My head started throbbing. The pain in my arms, shoulders, neck and head lasted for days and no pain killer could take it away.

That is winter for many people with a disability. We live in fear of slipping on ice. It can result in more than muscle pain; there are sprains and broken bones.

A 2001 U.S. study of hip fractures showed 40 per cent of the patients were not walking after six months and 25 per cent of the patients died within a year from complications.

That’s why seniors and people with disabilities don’t like getting out in the winter. It’s especially worse at night when you can’t see the ground.

The Services Review Committee has decided that 10,000 Islanders with a walking disability will have to go out into the winter night to have their voice heard. It doesn’t seem like a kind or safe thing to me, especially with this winter being so bad.

Is it necessary to have winter meetings? Did the minister ask the committee to schedule them in winter? I wonder if the premier wants seniors with disabilities out in the winter dark nights going to meetings.

We want to reform the DSP but do we have to risk our safety to do it? Why not wait until spring when it will be easier for people to get out?

Stephen Pate, Director,

PEI Disability Alert

Serious setback in a sensitive project

Our civil service never set out to break the Disability Support Program but officials will have to fix it anyway.

The Guardian

We have to assume that the people who set up the Disability Support Program set out with the best possible intentions; it’s too bad that it took a human rights ruling to set them looking for the best possible methods.

On the surface, the DSP sounds like an excellent, even revolutionary, approach to dealing with the needs of disabled Islanders. It replaced a patchwork of assistance plans with a concerted effort to meet the needs of P.E.I.’s physically and mentally challenged citizens, and it stopped the degrading and inadequate practice of forcing people who needed help to declare themselves unemployable and turn to social assistance.

The trouble with the DSP has been that too many disabled Islanders have found that this one-size-fits-all system doesn’t fit them well at all.

The problems began when parents of disabled children found that they were to be treated as dependents up to the age of 25 and that families would be held responsible for contributing to their costs of care. It took a vocal opposition of parents and supporters to get the government to acknowledge that adulthood should start at the same age whether a person is disabled or not.

But that setback failed to spark a real re-examination of the DSP.

Now the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission has essentially sent the entire DSP back to the drafting room by ruling that its core questionnaire unfairly favours support for physical disabilities over support for mental disabilities.

The trouble is that once they return to their work, the designers of a disability support structure have an unenviable job. How, frankly, does one assign a dollar value to the impact of a disability? A lecturer could be paralyzed from the neck down and not lose any earning power, while some musicians could end a lifelong career by losing a fingertip. Who is to say how each should be assisted and where to set the limit for that assistance?

One can only feel empathy for the people in charge of administering such a system. They see individuals and their families with aching needs and have to adress those needs within the cold reality of a taxpayer-funded support system. Faced with someone who needs a simple piece of equipment, the disability support worker’s job should be straightforward. Faced with a family who may need lifelong respite help to cope with the care of a child, the case worker has tougher calls to make.

The genius of the DSP was that it gave power to Islanders with disabilities and their caregivers by allowing them to pick the services they offered.

The problem with the DSP was that it attempted to use a simple formula to determine just how much money each claimant could get.

That problem isn’t going to go away. Government will still have to pay for services to the disabled and it will still have deserving people who go away unhappy when the money runs out.

The only way to deal with these heartaches is for disability workers to do what the DSP purported to do in the first place. They have to allocate support while listening to the disabled. And they have to do what the DSP failed to do in this case; they have to keep talking and be willing to change the system when it proves unacceptable.

DSP Reforms

Here are the know DSP issues we’d like reformed. If you have others, post a comment and we’ll ammend the list. Thanks.

1 Increased Budget
2 Reform screening tool
3 Equitable Appeals process
4 Remove age restriction, add seniors with disabilities
5 Add Mental Disability
6 Add: Learning Disablity
7 Remove client contribution
8 Remove claw back
9 Increase support for home improvements
10 Increase support for vehicle modifications
11 Help for family caregivers