"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Good News From Metro Transit

You might recall some previous posts I've written, one about my own efforts to have our local bus company institute a policy to which would allow the accompanying support person of a person with a disability to ride the bus free of charge. Because, as I noted at the time, although they had a policy in conjunction with the CNIB, providing that a blind person could travel with a support person without paying or a second fare, no such policy existed for individuals with any other type of disability. Which efforts, I was pleased to note, were ultimately successful.

A year later, I wrote about the issue Metro Transit, the Halifax Regional Municipality's transit system, was facing when some complained about their long-time policy of offering free bus passes to people who were blind.  But not to anyone else.

At any rate, I am pleased to advise that Metro Transit will be launching major policy and operational changes to improve accessibility on all of its routes later this year. This was apparently motivated by a Human Rifghts Commission complaint by passengers Tammy Robertson and Michael Craig.

Both Ms. Robertson and Mr. Craig are wheelchair-users and were unable to use most of the routes on the transit system despite most of the bus fleet being accessible. We are told that "Their experience reflected widespread frustration among people in the disabled community". I imagine so.

At any rate, upcoming changes are to include:
  • passengers using wheelchairs being able to use low-floor buses serving any route, providing the ramp can be lowered so they can board the bus. At the moment, low-floor buses only pick up passengers if the route is designated fully accessible.
  • passengers, with proper identification, who require attendants having their attendant's fare included in their own. [ED. Thank you very much]
  • snow clearing at the Mumford and Dartmouth terminals being improved and increased to a 24-hour priority.
  • the Request a Stop program, which provides for disembarking between stops for safety at night, being extend to disabled passengers at any time of day if it becomes reasonably necessary to accommodate them, such as situations of adverse weather or for safety reasons.

Gerald Hashey, the Human Rights Commission's manager of dispute resolution, is quoted as stating that "this initiative has allowed the largest transit system in the Maritimes to provide leadership on our commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities". He notes, quite rightly, that public transit is key to independence and participating fully in life for people with disabilities.

I can't find the press release (which I received in an email) anywhere online so I am going to reproduce it in its entirety here.

But before I do that, there's one other thing I would like to mention.  And that is how pleased I am to see the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities* being used in such a manner.

One of the (many) things I never got back to discussing after posting about the Values, Vision and Action Workshop I attended this past March was the discussion around the use of the Convention in our advocacy work.

I've written before about some of my hesitation reservations around the practical usefulness of the Convention from a legal point of view.  But one of the things discussed at the CACL workshop was taking a copy of the Convention along with us when we visit our MLAs or MPs on various issues and pointing out the relevant sections to them.

Now that I like because although I am hesitant as to how much teeth the Convention might actually have in a court of law, it's primary usefulness may well be to quote from it in our advocacy work with politicans and the media.  Which, apparently, is exactly how Ms. Robertson and Mr. Craig used the Convention when they filed their Human Rights complaint. Now that's what my mother would call "using your noggin".

Following is the text of the press release.
Public transit improvements will soon benefit riders with disabilities in Halifax Regional Municipality.

Late this fall, Metro Transit will launch major policy and operational changes to improve accessibility on all of its routes.

Metro Transit worked with the Human Rights Commission and passengers Tammy Robertson and Michael Craig to help create many of these changes.

Ms. Robertson and Mr. Craig, who both use wheelchairs, could not use most of the routes. Their experience reflected widespread frustration among people in the disabled community.

When the changes are introduced passengers using wheelchairs will be able to use low floor buses serving any route, passengers who require attendants will have the attendant's fare included in their own and snow clearing at the Mumford and Dartmouth terminals will be improved and increased to a 24 hour priority.

Media Contacts: Gerald Hashey
Human Rights Commission
902-424-3132
E-mail: hasheygj@gov.ns.ca

Lori Patterson
Metro Transit
902-490-6609

Michael Craig
902-454-6859 or 902-476-8288

Tammy Robertson
902-789-1530
Release Date: 07/31/11

Monday, July 25, 2011

Suvey Says

For your rainy summer day enjoyment (I'm sure we'll have another one before too long), I offer two online government surveys you might be interested in.

The first newest is from the Cyberbullying Task Force.

The survey itself can be found here and you can learn more about both it and the Task Force here. The voices of young people with disabilities need to be heard on this topic and I was pleased to note that it was very teen-friendly when my youngest daughter filled it out.

The second one has been around for a while but closes for responses the end of July.

You might recall Ben Levin's report to the Minister of Education back in May and the op-ed I wrote at the time. An online questionnaire/survey had been created to get public response to the report and, apparently, the time for public response has been extended a few times, the most recent being until the end of July.

Admittedly, I was not too impressed when I first looked at this survey, seeing how it kept asking for the most "promising ideas" from Dr. Levin's on various topics.  Not when I hadn't come across many "promising" ideas when it came to the topic of special education.  But, having giving it some thought, I'm thinking that since the format does allow for written responses you can say pretty much whatever you want.  No matter what they appear to be looking for.

So might I suggest you review Dr. Levin's report and then try your hand at the survey.

In a very recent conversation with the Minister I was led to believe that it might just be worth it to get our responses/thoughts in and tabulated.

So there you go.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Well Said

I've mentioned fellow blogger, Ashley's Mom at Pipecleaner Dreams on a few occasions before.

Today I popped over to catch up on a few older posts and thought this post about inclusion was simply beautiful.

But, no, she speaks not of our children or others with disabilities being included, she speaks of true inclusion - among parents.

Some snippets:
. . .  .

There grows in communities groups of parents who have children with disabilities. These groups may grow out of shared hospital experiences or shared school experiences or maybe just through word of mouth from one family to another. And the adults in the groups come together for support and to share their stories that usually only others in similar situations will understand. More often than not, the children represented by these groups have very similar disabilities – parents of children with deafblindness, parents of children with Down Syndrome, or parents of children with trachs, for example. But what if you are the parent of a child that just doesn’t quite fit the same description of other children in one of the groups? What do you do and where do you find your support?

. . .  .

I know it’s difficult for true inclusion to work, and I know that there are many, many facets to inclusion. I know I may never see it fully bloom in my lifetime, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about it. I suggest we try to envision the inclusive world we all desire while at the same time finding the support we need. I fully realize that it is much easier to bond with another parent whose child is on a trach if my child is on a trach. But let’s try setting aside the specifics of disability and concentrate on the specifics of humanity – regardless of ability.
Head on over and read the rest of it. Please.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ahem

Just a reminder that tomorrow (Friday, July 22nd) is the day that Skye and his Mom will be in Halifax for the Kilometres for Communication event.

Yes, I confess, right from the beginning I have been totally impressed by this young man and what he has been doing. 

If you follow his blog, particularly some of the more recent posts, you will see how challenging the trip has become for both Skye and his mother.

 

The least we could do is show up and offer our support tomorrow, eh?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Call To Action

Plucked from the comments on the recent post about Jordan's Principle:
Thanks so much for caring the story about Jordan's Principle and the child welfare tribunal which includes Jordan's Principle. Please encourage your readers to sign up to support Jordan's Principle at www.jordansprinciple.ca and write a letter to PM Harper demanding its full implementation across all government services.
So what say you?




It seems like such a small thing to do, doesn't it?

So why are you still here?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Subject to Change Without Notice??

The Nova Scotia Department of Community Services (DCS) backed off a clandestine plan to cut medical services for disabled Nova Scotians living in special care homes late Friday Thursday afternoon, hours before it was to take effect.

The province had planned to implement the unannounced cuts over the Canada Day long weekend, but shelved the plan hours after the Canadian Press News Agency sought comment from DCS Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse. Operators of special care homes were told the policy was “on hold” in late afternoon emails from frontline care coordinators.

The policy would have curtailed coverage for a wide range of medical benefits including dental care, drugs, and medical supplies.

In one case, workers caring for an elderly diabetic who receives a living allowance of just $125 per month were told his daily insulin injections would no longer be covered, because the type of insulin prescribed for his hard-to-control blood-sugar levels is not on a list of approved drugs. The man, who has a developmental handicap, leads an active life and is beloved by his community.

Another agency was told the province would no longer pay for an anti-seizure medication required by one of its residents.
The above is from Parker Barss Donham's blog, Contrarian.

And, if true, it's extremely disturbing. 

Parker's name should be well-known to most Nova Scotians, or at least to those with any interest in politics. Which leads me to the one caveat I offer here; namely that, politics being what it is, I tend to be a mite bit cynical, not just of the party in power, but equally of those associated with the opposition.  Because even those not holding the reins of power have a certain power, colloquially known as the power of "spin".  Meaning that, fair or not, I tend to take anything I come across originating from anyone with a strong connection to any political party with at least a few grains of salt.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this - although on its face deeply disturbing, I have to at least allow for the possibility that there may be a more innocent explanation at play here, one that some would rather not be made public. 

Then again, that being said, my true cynicism, based on years of hard fought experience, lies with government departments, particularly those of Education and Community Services, meaning I have trying real hard not to jump to the conclusion that I would be oh so happy to reach and at least allow for the possibility that all might not be exactly as it seems. I'm trying - it's just not that easy.

On another note, I see that Mr. Dunham has posted various DCS policy documents, which tend to be extremely difficult to access.  The links will be up shortly in the sidebar under the heading "Services for Persons with Disabilities ... Policy Documents".

Just remember, though, that as so aptly pointed out by Mr. Dunham's post, government policies are often subject to change. Without. Any. Notice.

* When researching yesteray's post, I noted that the Department of Health and Wellness' (the new name for the Department of Health) Home Care Policy Manual is dated June 1, 2011.  In a similar vein, I see that both the Services for Persons With Disabilities - Special Needs Policy and the Financial Eligibilty Policy are dated July 1, 2011 (yes, that's two days ago aka Canada Day). It would appear that, perhaps, our NDP government is on some sort of policy revision roll, to an extent that might not quite be accounted for by the various departmental changes made in the recent Government Administration Amendment (2011) Act(ch. 11 of the 2011 Statutes).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Uncaring, Unprincipled, Unacceptable

That I wrote about this very issue two years ago is a very sad commentary:
That a funding kerfuffle, that the federal and provincial governments cannot agree on who, exactly, is responsible to provide the funding necessary for aboriginal children with special needs to stay at home, with their families, where they belong is sadly, perhaps, not surprising.

But that this bit of 'government infighting' as it is so colloquially called has resulted in families being told that they may be forced to give up their children because the First Nation can no longer pay for their care and federal and provincial governments can't agree on who should pay is beyond despicable.
And if it was unacceptable then, what is it now?

Two years ago, I questioned where the  Nova Scotia government stood when it comes to Jordan's Principle.  I guess now we have our answer.
Jeremy Meawasige loves music, sunny days at the beach and his mother.

But Jeremy has extensive physical and mental disabilities. And the failure to resolve a dispute between the Pictou Landing First Nation and the federal government over how his care is paid for may result in his institutionalization.

"It’ll be over my dead body," said Maurina Beadle of the possibility her 16-year-old son might be institutionalized.

Jeremy is diagnosed with autism, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and spinal curvature.

For 15 years, Beadle provided 24-hour care for her son. She spoon fed him pureed foods, carried him, prevented his self-destructive tendencies and changed his diapers.
That, in itself, by itself, is unacceptable in my mind. That a parent should single-handedly have to provide 24-hour care for their child for all those years anywhere in Canada is quite simply unacceptable. 

Home care? In home support?  Direct Family Support? Hello, is anybody home out there?

But as if that wasn't bad enough, last year Jeremy's mother had a stroke.  Fortunately, the Pictou Landing First Nation stepped up to the plate, providing three hours of home care every day.  Last year that cost the First Nation $82,000.

But now, even as the cost decreases due to his mother being out of a wheelchair and now able to walk with the assistance of a cane, she is being told that her son might have to be institutionalized because no level of government is willing to pick up the cost of a small amount of home care. Home care to which Jeremy would be more than entitled to were he to live off-reserve in this Province.*