Letter to British Columbia Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman from EQUALS

May 20, 2010

Dear Minister Coleman,

On behalf of EQUALS, I would like to commend the statements you made in the Legislature on May 19, 2010 – ensuring that people with disabilities who need equipment and assistive technology will have it fully funded through EATI by your Government. I thank you for your commitment to people with disabilities who are entering the workforce and performing meaningful and valuable volunteer work in communities across British Columbia.

EQUALS will now be acting as the independent monitor of the BC Personal Supports Network and Ministry of Housing and Social Development to ensure that the projected need for $5.74 million worth of equipment and assistive technology is met through EATI. This role will require us to request regular information from the community and from Government, to ensure that applications are being processed efficiently. If we discover bottlenecks or unnecessary delays in EATI, we will take strong and quick action to have them corrected.

We appreciate your personal undertaking to people with disabilities, and look forward to establishing a strong working relationship with you and your office.

Sincerely,

Josh Vander Vies
On behalf of EQUALS
equals.ca

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A New Lease on Life

May 20, 2010

By: Barbara Matiru

In August 2009, I was feeling somewhat depressed as I had just received a letter with bad news from the Canadian Red Cross. They wrote to inform me that the Aids to Independent Living Program was unable to fulfill my request for a power wheelchair due to recent funding cuts. My Occupational Therapist of the Vancouver Coastal Health had assessed me as needing such a chair and I had been on the Red Cross wait list for over a year. My efforts to get help elsewhere, as I am a disabled senior with only a Guaranteed Income Supplement Pension, failed. Every charitable organization or foundation had only its specialized areas where it was willing to help.

How excited I was when I heard, in the middle of January 2010, about the Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI). I phoned at once to get an application form and was warmly encouraged by Josh Vander Vies, when he heard the account of my severe osteoarthritis and heart problems, coupled with my desire to do more volunteer work. I was in that space where my mind and spirit dreamed of wanting to do so many things but my physical body was unable to do so. Josh expedited the whole application process very efficiently.

When I received the letter informing me that my application for a power chair had been successful, I was overjoyed. My life has changed since that day. Now, I am able to get on HandyDart and go to places that much further away. There, I can travel for long distances on my power chair and get everything done.

Every week, I now go to the West Vancouver Seniors Centre and play my recorder flutes with the 17 member ensemble. Then, about five times a year we will volunteer to perform concerts at seniors’ residences and care facilities. I have only performed in two or three such concerts in the past and was always amazed by how much people appreciated the music. Moreover, I have no problem practicing for 1hr.30min. duration of each class, as the chair gives me excellent back support.

I am also in my fourth week of volunteering as an ESL Teacher at a Kiwanis Seniors’ Residence. The students are eager to learn and have said that I’m a good teacher. After the second class, one elderly gentleman said, as he was leaving, ‘’Thank you my teacher for coming. I am very happy to be improving my English with you.’’ In turn, I’m happy to be able to give to the community something they really need, as they had been unable to find an ESL teacher since they lost the one they had, over a year ago.

My church had been asking me to return to leadership work on the Church Council. When I got my power chair, I phoned and offered my services again. We meet on a regular basis and it feels good to contribute my ideas once more. This Saturday, for the first time in years, I attended an all-day workshop. The venue had installed an elevator and made the front entrance accessible, since I was there last. The guest speakers were from Toronto and Calgary, respectively. I acquired lots of good ideas and was acknowledged, after our group sessions, for my lucid suggestions and opinions. During our singing, I supported the pianist on an African drum. One of the participants came up afterwards and thanked me.

On a monthly basis, I have started to plan the Taizé Prayer and Contemplative Music Services for this joint initiative of two North Shore churches. I also play my recorder flute for the service, together with another recorder, violin, organ and two lead singers. I’m thrilled by being able to be involved in all this music once more.

At my assisted living residence, I’ve been able to help others by going to the mall and shopping for them. For example, this week was Nurses Appreciation Week and I was able to go and price the cake that was to be presented. I also bought a large manila board, had it rolled up and put in the bag behind my chair. With it I made a lovely appreciation card for the occasion. In addition, I have volunteered to produce our newsletter and can get around to the outings, interviews and other events I later report. Since I was an editor for ten years, this allows me to apply my skills in a new way that is needed by our tenants. I also volunteer on the Tenants Council.

I have gained a new lease on life with the power chair and the possibilities it offers me. I am again able to be in a leadership role, teach and be more creative. Feedback from others lifts my spirit and boosts my ego. My friends are glad for me and my new-found mobility. My life would go back to much narrower, less interesting confines if I were to be without my power chair. Thank you EATI! I hope many others may also benefit.

Tempers Flare in the B.C. Legislature

May 20, 2010

From CTV News

Tempers flared in the B.C. legislature Wednesday over NDP claims the Liberal government is cutting funding for the disabled.

During an exchange in Question Period, New Democrat Shane Simpson attacked Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman on funding for programs that provide equipment like wheelchairs and hearing aids for disabled people trying to get a job.

He said the government promised community groups $4 million for the programs but six months later the Liberals went back on that pledge without any consultation.

[Click here for the full story and video]

Lilo Ljubisic on assistive technology and equality.

May 19, 2010

BC government cuts $2.5 million of direct funding for equipment and assistive technology for British Columbians with disabilities

May 11, 2010

Critical funding for equipment and technology to help people with disabilities in British Columbia move, communicate, hear, and speak has been cut by $2.5 million dollars after only seven months. This funding enabled people with disabilities to specifically access employment and volunteer opportunities in the community.

The funding was a partnership between the BC government and a network of community organizations (BC Personal Supports Network). The partnership specified $4 million dollars per year for 4 years would be available for people with disabilities to access the equipment, technology and training support they need for participation in volunteer work or employment. This new funding was allocated to the province of British Columbia by the federal government under the Labour Market Agreement which is intended to help relieve barriers to employment.

On May 5, 2010, just 7 months after entering into the agreement, the BC government has decided to cut the $4 million allotment by $2.5 million – a 60% reduction. This cut was made without any consultation with the BC Personal Supports Network or with people with disabilities themselves.

By providing the necessary equipment and assistive technology, this funding helps hundreds of people with disabilities to be in the world instead of trapped in their homes and care facilities. This crucial equipment includes:

  • wheelchairs,
  • hearing aids,
  • computer access enhancements,
  • vision aids,
  • communication aids and
  • many other devices depending upon individual need

Less than 2 months after BC welcomed the world to the Paralympics, it is shutting out its own citizens with disabilities and forcing them to go without the equipment and technology they need and cannot afford to pay for on their own.

Other provinces, like Ontario and Alberta, have universal access to publicly funded equipment and devices because these provinces recognize their responsibility to their citizens with disabilities. British Columbia does not. This $4 million dollars, allocated directly for equipment and assistive technology, was an important step in recognizing the huge needs of British Columbians with disabilities. It was a small but significant drop in the bucket and crucial to meeting the need.

We urge you to speak out to the government of BC and the federal government. The $2.5 million that was cut would have gone directly to buying the equipment and assistive technology that people need today in this province, which declares itself to be “the best place on earth”. It’s not, if you are a person with a disability.

——

Call, write or email the Premier and the Minister for Housing and Social Development and ask them to reinstate the $2.5 million for equipment and assistive technology for people with disabilities:

1. Premier Gordon Campbell

premier@gov.bc.ca

250 385-1715

You can call toll free through Enquiry BC
In Victoria call: 250 387-6121
In Vancouver call: 604 660-2421
Elsewhere in B.C. call: 1 800 663-7867
And ask to be connected to the Premier’s office.
Or write to:
PO Box 9041 STN Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9E1

2. The Honourable Rich Coleman: Minister of Housing and Social Development

Rich.Coleman.MLA@leg.bc.ca

250 356-7750

You can call toll free through Enquiry BC
In Victoria call: 250 387-6121
In Vancouver call: 604 660-2421
Elsewhere in B.C. call: 1 800 663-7867
And ask to be connected to the office of The Honourable Rich Coleman

Or write to:
PO Box 9058 STN Prov Govt
Victoria, BC
V8W 9E2

3. The Honourable Diane Finley:  Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Finley.D@parl.gc.ca

613 996-4974

Or write to:
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6