Today on my blog, I decided to have a guest write an entry. Incidentally, it’s my wife. 🙂 Here in Canada, more precisely in Ontario, Our elected officials have been making radical changes throughout government services and this will negatively impact all of us. Although, I tend to shy away from political topics, I feel that it’s important to have intelligent dialog and to make sure that we all understand the impact of the decisions that politicians supposedly make “for the people”.
Without further ado, here is her article.
When the Current Government Forgets Their People
By Erin Courcelles
I would like you to try and fully understand the damage that is being done by the conservative government in Canada. My husband (Martin) and I are from the generation that fought for the right to be educated despite having disabilities. My mother and I were told I would NEVER get pass grade 9 but she refused to listen. Thankfully I didn’t either and I graduated from higher education with honours, twice!
Martin’s father was told to send him away to a school for the blind in another province, instead his father painstakingly learned braille and made sure that he was offered as many of the same opportunities as his cohorts as possible. I know of many stories of people who fought for their place in school/university by making sure textbooks, test and lecture notes were made available in alternative formats. Because of this, we and our friends hold decent jobs, own property, pay taxes, take vacations, go out for girls or boys night out. We contribute to society. We are like everyone else despite the small investment made to level the educational playing field.
What Doug Ford, Jason Kenny and all the conservatives are doing by preventing disabled children from going to school means that they will not be employable. The jobs that they will hold will be the ones without benefits and they will be assured a place in the working poor but more than likely, they will be on some form of low-income support.
I can talk about how this is a human rights issue. In fact, that is how we fought for our rights for an education decades ago, but let me tell you how this will affect you. YOU, the able-bodied person who wants to retire in the next 15-20 years, this is the damage we see with shortsighted politicians. Ford wants to save $1000 now, even if it is going to cost us $20,000 later. Because he will not be around, but neither will your pension. We have been saying for years that 15% of Canadian’s are disabled, but the new data on disability in Canada, 2017 says it is actually 22%. You may think this statistic is mostly seniors, however, according to the 2017 census, more than 540,000 Canadian youths aged 15 to 24 years (13%), had one or more disabilities. In 2017, the employment rate was 59%. You may think that that is bleak compared to the 80% non-disabled population, but in 2011, the employment rate of Canadians with disabilities was 49%. How does this affect your pension or your taxes? 41% of the low‑income population are Persons with a disability. In Ontario, in April 2019, 54% of the households on social assistance were on ODSP. Imagine what will happen when we stop valuing 22% of our population to the point of not educating them?
More and more, we are learning how to accommodate our students in our ever-changing world. We know how to level the playing field. For the most part, we know how to inspire and engage students with disabilities. With the disabled community growing and the employment gap decreasing, we know how to prevent the growing population of 22% from being on welfare.
In turn, the last 10 years we have seen the disabled population start businesses, advocate for themselves, teach and make advancements in technology, in ways we could never have imagined. For example, parents with strollers should thank wheelchair users for curb cuts, elevators and automatic doors. Personally, I think everyone needs to thank the visually impaired for talking technologies, which is now part of smart homes throughout the world. Or the foreign students who thought closed captioning was there to help them learn a new language, which was actually invented to help the deaf.
When we do not accommodate, a growing number of the population will suffer. That is a serious problem. I am not saying there won’t be people like Frida Kahlo who had the artistic talent to overcome her challenges or Helen Keller who inspired many and battled for everyone. I am saying that we have the ability to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to go forward together, as a cohesive and productive society. If we do not address this, the people of Canada will be stunted AND we will have to pay to support the people we left behind.