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September 18, 2017

Still a ways to go

Part way there
Twice this summer I've been invited to functions that illustrate that famous oxymoron "Government Intelligence".  I've been reluctant to say anything because some progress has been made in the situation of Canadians with disabilities and I don't want to be a party pooper.

On the other hand, people have been rude, ignorant and inconsiderate, and they need to be held accountable.

First, I was invited to this event:

The Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada (the Alliance*) is consulting Canadians about the Government of Canada’s proposed accessibility law. We want to hear from people with disabilities, their families and caregivers. We also want to hear from service providers, businesses, unions and other community organizations. We are collecting information through surveys, public meetings and discussion groups. We will be compiling our findings in a report for the Honorable Carla Qualtrough.

The Alliance invites you to attend our public session taking place on July 17 at the Atlantica Hotel Halifax from 6PM – 8PM.

It was held in the basement of the Atlantica, emceed by Sue Uteck. To get to the basement you need to take a small elevator - one wheelchair at a time - competing with crowds of tourists headed in the up direction.  Pretty soon they discovered that they could go up by going down first, so the elevators were always full. Once downstairs, the conference area is two stepped levels down. The Alliance had rented two ramps, much too steep, requiring spotters to negotiate safely. Ironically (there's that word) there is a door on that level, but it's for use in fire emergencies only, by some train of twisted logic.

Today I attended the proclamation of the new Accessibility Act at the East Preston United Baptist Church.  This was strictly political theater, with the Premier and the MLA taking credit for improving lives and a Minister (not the religious kind) announcing 15 accessibility grants.  That was the Minister of Community Services, the clueless department that is largely responsible for the antique view of disability in the province.  One grant was for the East Preston United Baptist Church for an accessible washroom.
Bishop Presron

The church had a carved bust of Richard Preston, who bought his freedom in Virginia sometime after 1812.  By all accounts he was a generous and pleasant person, as were our hosts at the church.  As Paul Vienneau would say, Preston could distinguish sympathy and empathy.

Imagine the genius of the event planner in the Premier's office who invited people with disabilities to attend an event in a rural community 1 1/2 hours from downtown.  Where only 1 bus leaves in time for a 10 o'clock meeting - 07:28.  To a place without a bathroom.  And on a bus that can only accommodate 2 wheelchairs.  And 1 1/2 hours return.  And you pay their extravagant salary.

No wonder the church wasn't flooded with wheelchairs, scooters, the blind and the deaf.  This was arguably the most significant development in the lives of Nova Scotians with disabilities since the Charter, only they were effectively excluded.

Speaker Kevin Murphy and Gerry Post, the new access Czar were there; myself, two other wheelchair users.  The Minister (political) responsible for the Act didn't bother to show.  

What might have been a celebration of progress was merely a demonstration of the venality of politics and the virtual invisibility of people with disabilities.

The ceremony ended at 10:44 and all going well, a bus passenger would've been back downtown at 13:20.  5 hours, 42 minutes without a bathroom - 8 more minutes and they'd be in London:

September 8, 2017

Get an RDSP for Chrissake!

Six years ago I did a post on Canada's Registered Disability Savings Program.  Gerry Post recently sent the 2015 review of the program.  It's discouraging.
Any Canadian resident who is eligible for a disability tax credit is also eligible for a RDSP.  There are no requirements to have a job or to make private payments.

If a person makes payments on their own, they are matched up to $3500 depending on income.  For people with low income, the government will make a $1000 payment.

If you forgot to claim the $1000 in the past, there is a generous catch-up provision for up to $10,500.

In Nova Scotia, the province with the highest rate of disability, exactly 3,332 RDSPs were active in 2015.  This is absurd.

The average age of RDSP beneficiaries nationwide is 28.  A person receiving social assistance for disability is probably eligible for the disability tax credit.  Starting at age 28, such a person would have a RDSP balance of $84,066.96 at age 60.

In 2012, StatsCan estimated that 36,690 Nova Scotians had a "very severe" disability.  Say half could easily get a disability tax credit.  18,345.  On average they should be headed for a nice bank balance of $84,066.96.  That represents an asset of a billion and a half dollars.  Billion with a B.

Now there are a ton of reasons why this program might be overlooked, but it should be the responsibility of the Department of Community Services to require that every one of their clients receiving disability supports have an RDSP.  There is a page on their website, but it's singularly uninformative.  Financial health is an important concern.

That flushing sound you hear is a billion and a half dollars down the provincial toilet.  Really.

August 22, 2017

Keeping the enemy at bay

While I was on my fabulous Harbour Hopper excursion, I happened to notice the new path up the side of Citadel Hill, culminating in an AWESOME set of steps.  I don't know which genius hatched this plan, but I suspect it was the same one who designed the new curb cuts at the entrance, photographed below:

In this case, the Citadel hierarchy created a steep path up the western side culminating in a set of imposing steps with enough concrete to build a replica of the Spanish Steps.  It could have included switchbacks, but that ancient solution seems to have escaped the modern engineers.

My Google Earth says the change of altitude from the parking lot to the road above is around 70 feet.  It would take a path 840 feet long to meet the standard ramp slope of 1 in 12.  Instead, the path is around 415 feet. making for a slope of about 1 in 6.  Is there room for an 840 foot path?  Gee, I dunno:  Here's one 836 feet long.  You decide.

I don't want to make too much of it,  but a big honking set of new steps is a constant reminder to people with disabilities of their precarious position.  It's not exactly Cornwallis or Robert E. Lee, but it's a symbol of exclusion.

You wonder what could possibly have been behind such a plan.  The gears in someone's brain are stuck in about 1955.  Authorities clearly never got the message that Canada's official 150th birthday theme is diversity and inclusion.

But disabled veterans, who can't even get into their own museum are used to this double standard.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation shares responsibility, for uncurious reporting.  So do the mayor and entire City Council, who promote Halifax as an "Inclusive and Accessible Community"

Some clueless designer decided that no wheelchair user would or could use the new path, despite ample evidence otherwise.  People with wheelchairs do all kinds of things, like climbing Mt.  Washington and waiting impatiently at the finish line for marathon runners.  And of course there are no standards to guide him (or her).  Soon to be remedied, we trust.

Maybe we should forgive the Citadel.  It is a fortress after all - keeping the enemy out is what they're all about.

But who's the enemy?