UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities and all is not well in Canada

Two decades of neglect by government leaves many living with disabilities further behind and living in poverty
The UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities may be a publicity stunt or a grim reminder to many of the 4 million Canadians living with disabilities that they are locked in last place in the Canadian experience.
The UN press release says “The Day aims to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. The goal of full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society and development was established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982.” UN Enable
How good is life for people with disabilities in Canada? 
They have lower income, lower education, less access to public and business places, higher unemployment. Many of them live in pain, with daily limitations on their ability to function.
Here is now the Caledon Institute reported the state of Canada’s disability population only last month.

“Despite billions of dollars spent on a complex assortment of social benefits, many working age Canadians with disabilities end up desperately poor and trapped on welfare − the  dead end default program of last resort. This tragic state of affairs is neither tolerable nor necessary.”
It’s not pretty and the hodge podge approach of both Federal and Provincial governments is a travesty in a country as rich as Canada.
We can spend $15 or $20 billion on fancy fighter jets that we don’t need – well let’s hope Canada never gets in a war with those jets because it would be over in a few minutes against the military powers that ring our borders.
For Canadians living with disabilities all we get is a rich man’s program of RDSP that allows those with high disposable income to save for some day 20 years hence. Then their children with disabilities will have a tiny pension that the government will tout as a saving grace.
The current programs do very little to integrate Canadians with disabilities into Canadian life. A blind activist had to win in court to convince the Federal government to make their website accessible, just one of the many barriers their success.
Here’s a snap shot of some of the problems identified by Caledon for working age Canadians:
  • “In 2006 there were 21,373,150 Canadians of working age (i.e., between 16 and 64 years). Of these, 2,457,940 or 11.5 percent reported having disabilities – a substantial one in nine working age persons
  • Women outnumber men both in absolute number and incidence among those with disabilities
  • Half of working age Canadians with severe/very severe disabilities are spouses or partners in couples, four in ten are other family members
  • pain is the most prevalent problem followed closely by mobility and agility problems
  • people with severe/very severe disabilities have lower levels of education
  • working age Canadians with severe/very severe disabilities have a tenuous relationship to the labour force. This generalization is supported by a variety of labour market force indicators, including employment rate (36.7 percent), unemployment rate (12.3 percent), participation rate (41.9 percent)
  • the average employment income for women with severe/very severe disabilities was only $17,459 in 2006 compared to $31,172 for men in the same category
  • (Welfare is a necessary income supplement) – 25.4 percent of people with very severe disabilities reported welfare benefits, 19.9 percent of those with severe disabilities, 12.4 percent with moderate disabilities and 8.0 percent of those with mild disabilities.”
It’s time to put some work to solving these problems and put Canadians with disabilities back into Canadian society.

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