People with disabilities request priority for COVID-19 vaccine in N.B.


The New Brunswick Coalition of Person with Disabilities is calling on the province to prioritize people with disabilities in its vaccine rollout schedule.

The group’s vice-president, Murielle Pitre, said people with disabilities often have other health conditions that leave them more vulnerable to the coronavirus which should be taking into consideration in the province’s vaccine plan.

“I think that we should figure somewhere on the schedule and the reality is that we are just not,” said Pitre.

Read more:
Coronavirus — Parents of Quebecers with developmental challenges call for vaccine priority

She said the coalition supports the decision to have health-care and senior-care workers and seniors at the top of the list to receive the vaccine. But she says people with disabilities should be included among the vulnerable population.

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“Many people with disabilities have lung issues. For example, I have scoliosis and my lungs don’t function at 100 per cent.”

Mike Parker of Moncton was born with cerebral palsy and also suffers from a heart and lung condition, which he said leave him more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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“In my case, it is a heart and lung disorder, which scares the heck out of me and that is why I don’t go out that much,” he said.

He said that as a person with a disability, he feels overlooked in the province’s vaccine rollout plans.

“Us the disabled, we are not even mentioned, so it is upsetting,” he said.


Click to play video 'COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims'







COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims


COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims

People with disabilities are also not specifically listed in Nova Scotia’s vaccine rollout plans.

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Pitre said many people with disabilities have been housebound for months, which is impacting their mental health.

“Many people have been isolating since last year, I mean, since the beginning of the pandemic because they are afraid to go out,” she said.

Pitre said has spoken to her local MLA several times on the matter but hasn’t heard back yet.

“We are waiting on a response,” she said.

Read more:
People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say

On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, Shawn Berry, said in an email to Global News that long-term care workers and residents and health-care workers are the priority and the province “will be providing more details in the coming weeks about the next groups in its vaccination roll out plans.”

Meanwhile, Parker said his shot cannot come soon enough.

“I am afraid that if I get (COVID-19) chances are I can’t say if I would survive or not. It is 50/50 with me,” he said.

 





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Coronavirus: Ontario patients to be ranked for life-saving care should ICUs become full


Hospitals in Ontario have received a much-anticipated document that lays out the criteria to be used if intensive care units fill up and medical resources are scarce.

According to the document, titled “Adult Critical Care Clinical Emergency Standard of Care for Major Surge” and prepared by the province’s critical care COVID-19 command centre – patients will be scored by doctors on a “short-term mortality risk assessment.”

“Aim to prioritize those patients who are most likely to survive their critical illness,” the document notes.

“Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources,” the document reads.

It lists three levels of critical care triage:

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“Level 1 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality greater than 80 per cent,” the document notes.

“Level 2 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality (greater than) 50 per cent.”

At Level 3 triage, patients with predicted mortality of 30 per cent – or a 70 per cent chance of surviving beyond a year – will not receive critical care. At this stage, patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest will be deprioritized for critical care, as their predicted mortality is greater than 30 per cent.

Read more:
Toronto hospital capacity crunch prompts pediatric transfers to SickKids to make space

At this level, clinicians may abandon the short-term mortality predictions in favour of randomization, which the document notes is to be used “as a last resort” and should be conducted by an administrator, not by bedside clinicians.

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The protocol, dated Jan. 13, says there are three steps on the road to critical care triage:

Step 1 says hospitals should build surge capacity.

In Step 2 , “if demand still exceeds capacity, the hospital will adjust the type of care being provided to focus on key critical care interventions,” which include basic modes of ventilation.

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Step 3 is the initiation of critical care triage. Once that process kicks in, “all requests for ICU admission are managed by an administrator on call who supports the bedside clinicians.”

At the moment, there are 416 patients with COVID-19 in ICUs in Ontario, which has a total of 1,800 total ICU beds.

Read more:
Ontario hospitals told to prepare for out-of-region patients amid rising coronavirus cases

Modelling released by the province last week show that about 700 ICU beds will be used by COVID-19 patients by the first week February.

Dr. Andrew Baker, the head of the critical care COVID-19 command centre and director of critical care at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the triage protocol contains information and tools that are a standard way for physicians to conduct an assessment for a patient upon arrival at an emergency department.

“They were shared with the critical care community as background only and to ensure a common approach across the sector, so physicians and other health professional staff can learn how to quickly operationalize an emergency standard of care for admission to critical care, if ever needed,” he said.

Baker said an emergency standard of care is not in place, but will be enacted if needed.

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He said there is an “extensive, sophisticated, provincewide effort” to transfer patients out of hospitals that are at capacity.

Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said the hospital is running at 105 per cent capacity, but has cancelled surgeries in order to keep some spots open in the ICU.

“I sincerely hope we never need to use this because it is terrible for patients, terrible for their families, causes moral distress for health-care workers, and it’s something that we should do everything possible to avoid having to implement,” Warner said.

David Lepofsky, the chairman of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the triage guidelines are discriminatory.

He pointed to the clinical frailty scale, a prognostic tool doctors use in cases of progressive illnesses to assess a patient’s general deterioration over time.

“This is disability-based discrimination and that’s against the law in the Constitution,” Lepofsky said.





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‘People are being shown no mercy’: Online evictions raise alarm in Ontario


Tenant after tenant addressed the virtual meeting, describing how COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on their lives and finances over the last year.

A Toronto mother said she struggled to keep up with bills after losing work in the restaurant industry. A Hamilton man behind on rent payments said he was staying in touch with his landlord about his financial situation after being laid off.

“It’s COVID, people struggle,” he appealed to Landlord and Tenant Board member John Mazzilli during the Dec. 18 block of hearings — all of which involved non-payment of rent.

Similar scenes playing out over the last several weeks have raised concern among Ontario advocates who say the pickup of evictions in the pandemic’s second wave coincides with a shift to online-only hearings that stack the deck against tenants.

Read more:
Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising coronavirus case counts

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“These people are being shown no mercy,” Kenn Hale with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario said in a recent interview. “They’re expected to pay and pay now or get out.”

Hale, director of advocacy and legal services at ACTO, said it’s “absurd” to evict people during a health crisis that has left many unable to pay rent due to lost income.

“It’s bad enough in normal times for people to lose their homes and to be treated unfairly an administrative proceeding. But it can be life or death in the kind of situation we’re in now,” Hale said in a recent interview.

Evictions were suspended until late summer and the Landlord and Tenant Board is now working through a backlog of cases that observers say predated the pandemic, and has grown this year as more people lose income.


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Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses


Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses – Nov 23, 2020

Tribunals Ontario doesn’t keep track of evictions, but according to ACTO, the board heard more than 7,000 cases in November. Ninety-six per cent of those were filed by a landlord against a tenant, the ACTO said. As of Dec. 14, 4,597 hearings were scheduled for the month.

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Hale said the shift to an online-only hearing model has made it harder for tenants to present their circumstances or access legal advice, including through ACTO’s duty counsel program.

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Lawyers must now introduce themselves to tenants in the virtual session, in front of all other participants, and both need to exit the meeting to speak privately.

Hale said such introductions don’t always run smoothly, with lawyers are entering “chaotic” hearing situations where they struggle to make themselves heard.

There’s also concern about changes under Bill 184, which became law in the summer. It allows landlords to offer repayment agreements without appearing before the Landlord and Tenant Board, so some tenants are signing on to potentially unreasonable repayment terms without fully understanding their rights, Hale said.


Click to play video 'Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases'







Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases


Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases – Dec 15, 2020

A group of Ontario legal clinics, including ACTO, wrote to Tribunals Ontario in October with proposed guidelines for adjudicators considering evictions cases during the pandemic — including the public health risk and pressures on people’s finances.

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Hale said the group had not received a response as of mid-December.

The Progressive Conservative government has not yet acted on an Opposition motion supporting a freeze on evictions that passed unanimously this month, days before the legislative assembly adjourned until February.

NDP MPP Suze Morrison, who introduced the motion, said the online hearing format isn’t accessible for people with visual impairments or those who don’t have stable internet access, among other challenges.

“I’m deeply concerned that there are human rights violations happening here,” Morrison said by phone.

Read more:
Tenants call on landlords and province to step up, offer rent relief programs

A statement from Ford’s office this month said the government “is continuing to explore ways to further support Ontarians during this difficult time.”

Tribunals Ontario, meanwhile, said it’s pursuing “a digital-first strategy to meet the diverse needs of Ontarians and enhance the quality of our dispute resolution services.”

It said requests for in-person hearings would be considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure people are accommodated under the Human Rights Code. As of mid-December, Tribunals Ontario had not confirmed if any in-person hearings had been approved.

Sam Nithiananthan, an organizer with People’s Defence Toronto, said the online hearings have been a “double-edged sword” in the evictions process, as allies can now tune in and support their neighbours.

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Nithiananthan said the crisis has exposed longstanding issues renters face in the city, and it’s motivated tenants to organize in larger numbers than he’d seen before.

“What has been shifting is tenants are now standing up,” he said.

Read more:
Ontario reports 4,301 new coronavirus cases over past 2 days

Tenant organizer Bryan Doherty with Keep Your Rent Toronto said his group and others have called for rent relief that goes beyond a moratorium on evictions, arguing that simply pausing evictions would leave cases to pile up.

“We knew that a moratorium at the beginning of the COVID crisis would actually just produce an eviction blitz midway through the crisis, which is what we’re seeing now,” he said by phone in a mid-December interview.

Rents have long been unaffordable in Ontario’s largest city and Doherty said “COVID kind of threw gasoline on that fire.”

He said pressure needs to be applied to landlords and governments to address the housing crisis affecting working-class tenants during the pandemic and beyond.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the same. The question is whether or not it will be worse or slightly better,” he said.





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Canadians with disabilities struggling financially due to coronavirus pandemic: survey – National


More than half of Canadians with disabilities who participated in a crowdsourced survey are struggling to make ends meet because of the financial fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, a new report suggests.

Statistics Canada published findings on Thursday gathered from approximately 13,000 Canadians with long-term conditions or disabilities who voluntarily filled out an online questionnaire between June 3 and July 23.

Read more:
People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say

 

Unlike most of the agency’s studies, the survey wasn’t randomly sampled and therefore isn’t statistically representative of the Canadian population.

The responses indicate the pandemic has affected the ability of 61 per cent of participants age 15 to 64 to fulfil at least one financial obligation or essential need, including housing payments, basic utilities and prescription medication.

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Forty-four per cent of respondents reported concerns about paying for groceries, while 40 per cent were worried about the costs of personal protective equipment.






COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate


COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate

Nearly one-third of participants said their overall household income has declined since lockdown began. More than half of this group reported losses greater than $1,000 a month.

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Of those who were employed prior to the pandemic, 36 per cent said they were laid off or saw their hours cut.

Almost half of participants said they’ve relied solely on non-employment income in the months since the outbreak hit. The most common sources were disability assistance and pandemic-related income supports such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said the survey only begins to “scratch the surface” of the potential long-term financial repercussions of the pandemic for people with disabilities.

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He noted that the survey found young people were more likely to likely to have seen employment changes than other age groups, possibly permanently severing their ties to the workforce.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Payments for Canadians with disabilities still in limbo

“There’s some concern that people with disabilities may be some of the last rehired,” Prince said.

A 2017 study by Statistics Canada found that people with disabilities were more likely to live below the poverty line, and those who are employed tend to earn less than their counterparts without disabilities.

The authors of Thursday’s report raised concerns that financial losses linked to the pandemic could put many people with disabilities in an even more vulnerable position.

Earlier this week, the parliamentary budget office reported that Ottawa is spending $792 million on a one-time payment of up to $600 to help 1.67 million people with disabilities.






COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate


COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate

Kyle Vose, agency co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition, noted that many Canadians with disabilities don’t qualify for the payment, and for those that do, the sum is a pittance compared to the extra costs linked to COVID-19.

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“We’re people with disabilities, so we’re used to not getting anything,” Vose said. “We’re just hoping for something.”

Before the pandemic, Vose said, lots of people on the Ontario Disability Support Program were barely scraping by.

Now, Vose said, many are “falling through the cracks” as the prices of essentials such as food, medication and transportation have gone up, and services to support low-income people have been cut back.

Most Canadians are struggling during the pandemic, he said, but for people with disabilities, those burdens are often compounded by accessibility issues that can make meeting basic needs more difficult, and often, more expensive.

“There’s got to be some sort of understanding here, and there doesn’t seem to ever be that understanding.”



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Students with disability face more obstacles amid coronavirus: advocates 


Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

READ MORE: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

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Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out


Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure —  and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”

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Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors


Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

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READ MORE: Payments for Canadians with disabilities still in limbo amid coronavirus 

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”



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Ontario ends police access to coronavirus database after legal challenge


TORONTO — Ontario has ended police access to a COVID-19 database after a legal challenge was filed by a group of human rights organizations.

Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario were all parties to the lawsuit.

The groups argued that allowing police to access personal health records violates individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.

Read more:
Rights groups fight sharing of COVID-19 status with Ontario police forces in court

A statement from the CCLA says that the lawsuit against the province has been dropped with the news that the government has ended police access to the database.

The human rights organizations say they are now calling on local police services to destroy the personal health information that has already been accessed.

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They also ask that local police conduct audits to ensure the data access to date complied with policy and legal requirements.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Civil liberties group concerned as Ontario cops get IDs of those who test positive

In early April, the Ontario government passed an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that allowed police to obtain the names, addresses and dates of birth of Ontarians who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The human rights organizations said they wrote to the government expressing concerns about the utility and legality of sharing sensitive personal health information.

When they didn’t hear back, the groups said they filed an urgent court application challenging Ontario’s decision to release this information to police because they argued it breached provincial health privacy protections and violated individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.


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Quebec reserves 30,000 computers, tablets for students amid coronavirus pandemic – Montreal


The Quebec government announced Wednesday it has established an emergency reserve of 30,000 technological devices in what it describes as an exceptional measure to ensure students have access to tablets and computers.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said he wants to support the education system to ensure access to computer equipment for all students in the province.

The initiative will cost $18.9 million. The goal is to ensure students will have access to quality distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The devices will be primarily intended for students who do not have access to computers or Grade 9 and 10 students who are alternating physically being in class and at-home learning during the coronavirus crisis.

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READ MORE: Quebec premier ‘confident’ about revised coronavirus measures as school start looms

The province is also prioritizing students with disabilities, learning difficulties and those who are considered to be at risk for the devices.

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Roberge said that the plan follows an $150-million investment made available to school service centres in June to provide schools with tablets and laptops.

The school network has acquired approximately 200,000 devices in preparation for the start of the school year to date. Orders will continue over the next few weeks.






COVID-19: Swift reaction to Quebec’s back to school plan


COVID-19: Swift reaction to Quebec’s back to school plan

With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise



© 2020 The Canadian Press






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Manitoba upping order of high-dose flu vaccine amid coronavirus – Winnipeg


The Manitoba government is increasing its order of the high-dose influenza vaccine and expanding the list of people eligible for the shots this flu season.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said Tuesday health officials anticipate an increased demand for the vaccine amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“The flu season is always challenging, but COVID-19 will make it even more difficult. That’s why our government is taking every precaution to help keep Manitobans safe,” Friesen said in a release.

Read more:
Employee at Winnipeg Walmart tests positive for coronavirus

“By doubling our order of high-dose influenza vaccine and making it available to more people at high risk of contracting the flu, we are able to protect them, as well as our health-care providers on the front line.”

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Last flu season, when 26 per cent of Manitobans got the vaccine and 29 Manitobans died of the flu, the province ordered 11,500 of the high-dose vaccine. This year, Friesen said the order will increase to up to 21,500 shots.

The high-dose influenza vaccine is formulated for people aged 65 and older, and it’s usually made available to those living in long-term care facilities, clients in interim or transitional care beds, respite care clients and unimmunized residents admitted to long-term care homes during the flu season.

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Friesen said the province will open up the criteria for the vaccine to include:

  • Residents of supportive and assisted living housing.
  • Those who are newly incarcerated or transferred from other federal or out-of-province correctional facilities.
  • Those receiving home care services while on a waiting list for admission to a long-term care facility.
  • Those living on a First Nation or in remote communities.
  • Those living north of the 53rd parallel of latitude.

Pharmacy, doctors and other providers can start ordering their influenza vaccine orders Aug. 17, with the shots expected to arrive in late September.

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“Manitobans need to plan for a challenging flu season as COVID-19, influenza and colds will be occurring at the same time this fall,” Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said in the release.

Read more:
Manitoba sees 16 new coronavirus cases Monday, province seeing indication of community transmission, Roussin says

“Getting the flu vaccine or the high-dose influenza vaccine is an important step that will help keep you and those around you healthy this season. Staying home when you are sick, practising good hand hygiene and covering your cough also helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.”

More information on the vaccine is available on the province’s website or by calling Health Links–Info Santé at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or 1-888-315-9257 anywhere in the province.






Coronavirus: Manitoba reports 35 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths


Coronavirus: Manitoba reports 35 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.



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‘Do our lives count for less?’: Coronavirus shows gaps in Canada’s disability aid, experts say


Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this article, The Canadian Press mischaracterized one of romham gallacher’s disabilities by referring to it as a hearing condition. In fact, gallacher has a disorder that affects how they process auditory information.

Karyn Keith says she isn’t asking for much. All she wants is the same support she’d receive if she was out of a job because of the pandemic, rather than unable to work because of her disabilities.

The 44-year-old mother in Brampton, Ont., said she lives with constant pain and fatigue from multiple chronic conditions, including trigeminal neuralgia, a debilitating nerve disorder characterized by searing spasms through the face.

Read more:
People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say

She was forced to leave her career in supply chain and logistics management in 2013 when her health deteriorated after the birth of her daughter. Since then, she’s received $1,150, plus $250 for her child, every month in federal disability benefits based on her contributions to the Canada Pension Plan.

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Even with her husband’s income as a mechanic, Keith said most of her family’s spending is geared towards “survival.”

Still, some essentials fall through the cracks.






Coronavirus: Feds expand COVID-19 disability grant to include more groups


Coronavirus: Feds expand COVID-19 disability grant to include more groups

There’s a molding hole in her ceiling that’s needed repair since 2014. Her husband’s teeth are breaking because they can’t afford to fill his cavities. Every month, they have to dip into their dwindling savings to pay the bills.

Now, with the added financial strains of COVID-19, Keith says she’s doesn’t know what else they can live without. “We’re on the precipice, and literally, it’s going to take one thing to kick us off the edge.”

Keith says these shortcomings have become starker as the federal government doles out $2,000 a month to millions of out-of-work Canadians under the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, while she’s supposed to make ends meet on a little more than half that amount.

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“If people who work need this money to survive on, what about people who can’t?” Keith said. “Don’t we deserve a standard of living?”

Many advocates point to CERB as a concession that Canada’s disability assistance rates have failed to keep up with the costs of living in much of the country, and in some places, fallen below the poverty line.

But for a number of Canadians on disability assistance, CERB has also come to symbolize the extent to which their lives are devalued, even during a pandemic that puts them at disproportionate physical and financial risk.

Read more:
COVID-19 disability benefit, even if approved, would ‘miss all kinds of people’

“For some, it’s just reinforced the profound sense of cynicism of how they’ve been treated for much of their life by the government,” said Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at University of Victoria.

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Prince said COVID-19 presents a case study in the pitfalls of Canada’s motley patchwork of disability income programs, and a model for how a unified nation-wide support system like CERB could fill these holes in the social safety net.

Shortly after the pandemic hit, Ottawa rolled out the $82-million emergency benefits package to offer workers who lost their jobs $500 a week.

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The government’s latest figures show $62.75 billion in benefits have been paid to 8.46 million people. Last Friday, federal officials announced that CERB will wind down in coming weeks as the government shifts many people over to a revamped employment insurance system.

Prince said the speed and simplicity of CERB marked a bitter contrast for many disability assistance recipients who must navigate a Byzantine set of eligibility requirements and rate calculations before their benefits kick in.






Disability advocates say people with disabilities largely overlooked during COVID-19 pandemic


Disability advocates say people with disabilities largely overlooked during COVID-19 pandemic

In late July, Parliament approved a one-time $600 payment for people with disabilities facing additional expenses during COVID-19, including the increased costs of food, medication, support workers and personal protective equipment.

Prince commended the government for including an estimated 1.7 million Canadians across a range of disability support programs, and giving people 60 days to apply for the disability tax credit, which would qualify them for the one-time payment.

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Unlike CERB, the payment is tax-free and non-reportable, Prince noted, so it won’t be subject to clawbacks or offsets at the provincial level.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough said in a statement that the government remains committed to a “disability inclusive” pandemic response.

But Prince hopes this resolve will extend beyond the immediate crisis to address the long-standing lapses in the system that have forced so many Canadians with disabilities to live in poverty.

Andrea Hatala, recipient co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition, said the discrepancies between provincial support rates and CERB have galvanized calls to make $2,000 a month the new standard for disability assistance.

Read more:
Canadians with lifelong disabilities can lose disability tax credit

“Now we have more of a basis for what adequacy is,” she said.

Under normal circumstances, Hatala said the Ontario Disability Support Program’s maximum individual rate of $1,169 a month leaves many people without secure access to food, shelter and other basics such as winter clothing.

Many people with disabilities have compromised immune systems, she said, so they face a higher risk of COVID-19 complications, and extra expenses to keep themselves safe.

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The pandemic has restricted several services that low-income people rely on, such as food banks and public transit, Hatala said. In addition to retail markups on groceries and other goods, she said the high costs of delivery and private transportation have pushed many to their financial limits.

“There has been more light shining on these things,” noted Hatala.

“It doesn’t just happen magically. People have to try to make society better.”






Calgary disability sector struggles to access personal protective equipment


Calgary disability sector struggles to access personal protective equipment

In 2017, more than a quarter of Canadian adults with disabilities — or 1.6 million people — said they couldn’t afford a required aid, device or prescription medication, according to Statistics Canada.

The study also found that 28 per cent of people with severe disabilities aged 25 to 64 live below Canada’s official poverty line, compared to 10 per cent of their counterparts without disabilities.

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In a report on welfare incomes in Canada in 2018, the anti-poverty foundation Maytree found that annual incomes for individuals on standard disability assistance ranged from $9,800 and $12,500 in most provinces. Ontario had the highest rate at $14,954, followed by British Columbia at $14,802 and Quebec at $13,651.

At these levels, the organization says many provincial programs don’t cover the costs of living in their biggest cities.

According to the government’s “market basket measure,” the poverty threshold for a single person in Calgary was $20,585 in 2018 — double Alberta’s standard disability rate of $10,301. Even at the higher end of the spectrum, B.C.’s support payments fall $5,882 short of the $20,684 poverty threshold in Vancouver.

Read more:
Canadians’ household debt now 177% of disposable income

Vancouver activist romham gallacher, who spells their name with lower-case letters, is part of the grassroots group 300ToLive that’s pushing B.C. to extend its $300 supplement to disability assistance beyond the COVID-19 crisis as part of a broader effort to bring benefits in line with a basic standard of living.

Even as the pandemic has exacerbated the desperate circumstances many disability assistance recipients live in, gallacher said the $300 supplement has shown how a modest increase can have momentous impacts on people’s quality of life.

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In an informal survey of 285 people who received the supplement, 300ToLive found that the overwhelming majority of respondents said they spent the money on healthy food.

Gallacher was particularly touched by one woman who said the supplement ensured that she didn’t have to choose between paying rent and feeding her one-year-old daughter, and even allowed her to buy a new bedsheet and underwear for the first time in years.






Woman with disability dies alone after hospital refuses entry to support workers


Woman with disability dies alone after hospital refuses entry to support workers

A spokeswoman for B.C.’s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said the supplement, which is due to expire after this month’s cheque, is an “extraordinary measure” meant to relieve the compounded pressures on assistance recipients who already live in poverty.

But gallacher, a wheelchair user with multiple disabilities that impact their mobility and cognition, said the government’s insufficient support rates betray its indifference towards the plight of people with disabilities.

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“It says what much of society says: that our lives and contributions aren’t as important, we’re disposable,” gallacher, who has a cognitive disorder that affects how they process auditory information, said by email.

“The federal government decided that $2,000 was the amount per month that folks across the country needed to live during this pandemic, so why are we still being forced to live well below that, while often having significant expenses? Do our lives count for less?”



© 2020 The Canadian Press





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People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say – National


People with intellectual disabilities and autism are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than other people in at least two states in the U.S., according to new data collected by NPR.

In Pennsylvania, people with intellectual disabilities and autism are dying at a rate twice as high as other people who contract the virus. In New York, they’re dying at 2.5 times the rate of others.

One in four Canadians — about 25 per cent of the population — has a disability, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, and experts worry the numbers are similar when it comes to COVID-19 deaths in Canada.

READ MORE: Disability advocates say B.C. woman’s death shows need for clearer COVID-19 policy

“We know that … when you look at the response (to COVID-19) and the (exclusion) of certain populations … people with disabilities is one of those populations,” said Meenu Sikand, executive lead of equity, diversity and inclusion at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

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While there isn’t any Canadian data available yet, it would make sense that people with disabilities and autism are disproportionately affected by the virus, according to Valorie Crooks, a professor of health geography at Simon Fraser University who currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Health Service Geographies.

“This is a population that we know experience ongoing systemic challenges in accessing and experiencing preventative care,” Crooks said.

“If we had a group of people that we know have typically been on the margins of having access to preventative margins of healthcare, including how that intersects with the social care system, I think it’s quite logical to expect that this would be a group of people … that has higher rates of COVID-19.”






Recognizing the unique challenges COVID-19 presents to people with disabilities


Recognizing the unique challenges COVID-19 presents to people with disabilities

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, people with disabilities were facing “significant” challenges every day, March of Dimes Canada president Len Baker previously told Global News. March of Dimes is an organization which provides services for people with disabilities in Canada.

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“Those historic barriers become exacerbated during a time such as this pandemic,” he said.

“Now, not only do they have to address the issues that they need to be able to complete their goals and feel connected to the community, but with social distancing and the isolation that the pandemic brings, it causes us concern that many individuals are going to feel even a greater sense of isolation and loneliness during this time,” he said.

U.S. data

Pennsylvania and New York state are two of the only states collecting data about people with intellectual disabilities and autism as it relates to COVID-19 deaths.

In Pennsylvania, the numbers are tallied by the Office of Developmental Programs of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

As of June 2, the data showed 801 confirmed cases and 113 deaths among people with intellectual disabilities and autism. This includes anyone who receives state support while living in group homes, state institutions or their own homes.

READ MORE: Federal panel aims to ensure Canadians with disabilities included in coronavirus response

In New York, NPR calculated the data based on numbers collected by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

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As of early June, 2,289 people who receive services from this office were tested for the novel coronavirus and 368 had died.

In Canada, advocates are frustrated with the lack of data collection.






Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors


Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors

As someone who works with people with disabilities and autism on the front lines, Sikand knows the disabled community is being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — but Canada isn’t collecting any national data to back this up and drive policy.

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Without the data to support her claims, there is less pressure on the government to make a change.

“It’s already three months ⁠— almost four ⁠— into the pandemic response, and we missed all those opportunities,” Sikand said.

“The government was moving forward with a (plan), trying to make sure that it includes different communities … but our community has been left out of this conversation because there’s no real data.”

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‘Ableist lens’

The lived experience of a person with a disability or autism is extremely unique to that person, Sikand said, and the current policies regarding COVID-19 don’t take this into account.

“I think … social distancing and visitation policies were created using an ableist lens,” Sikand said.

She uses the example of Ariis Knight, a 40-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who died alone in a B.C. hospital in April.

READ MORE: Autism and isolation — How coronavirus is affecting kids on the spectrum and their parents

Knight communicated with her family and support workers through her eyes and facial expressions. She was admitted to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock on April 15 with symptoms of congestion, fever and vomiting but did not have COVID-19.

Her support staff were not permitted access due to restrictions put in place during the pandemic. Not long after being admitted, Knight was put on end-of-life care and died days later.

“She was cut off from the people who understood how she communicated … her support system was not considered,” Sikand said.

“People with disabilities are marginalized because (policy) decisions are being made by people who don’t have disability.”

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Inclusive emergency planning

Advocates say people with disabilities are often left out of emergency planning in Canada.

David Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, likened the situation to a fire raging inside of an apartment building complex. People inside are alerted by a fire alarm and speaker that tells them to exit by taking designated stairs illuminated by clearly indicated markers.

A person who is deaf wouldn’t hear the fire alarm. A person in a wheelchair would be trapped inside. And those designated markers would do nothing for someone who can’t see. Unless they receive support, Lepofsky said anyone with disabilities living in the building would likely not survive.

READ MORE: ‘I need help’ — Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

Similarly, he said the government has applied a mostly one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 measures that offer little support to the country’s disabled.

“It’s because of their disability and it’s because no one planned for them in the emergency,” he previously told Global News.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

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Often, Canadians with more severe disabilities will get placed in long-term care facilities, where health officials said more than 79 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths occur. Lepofsky said that poses a danger to those with disabilities as well.

Marielle Hossack, press secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement to Global News that the federal government has increased human resources for support services for Canadians with disabilities over the phone and online.

The federal government has also established the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, which is comprised of experts in disability inclusion that provide advice on “real-time live experiences of persons with disabilities.”






Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba premier announces $200 support for people with disabilities


Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba premier announces $200 support for people with disabilities

Hossack wrote that the group discusses disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps as well as strategies, measures and steps to be taken.

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But some advocates don’t think that’s enough.

“A lot of the measures that have been made to prepare for this pandemic have been done to think about the greatest number of people,” Karine Myrgianie Jean-François, director of operations at DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, previously told Global News.

READ MORE: B.C. woman with disability dies alone in hospital due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions

“(This) often means that we forget about people who are more marginalized and people who have a disability.”

Jean-François said that includes the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Currently, 70 per cent of Canadians eligible for the disability tax credit will receive the enhanced GST/HST benefit based on their income levels due to COVID-19, but that may not add up to much for Canadians with disabilities who may also need to hire food deliveries or in-house care, or those who would be deemed ineligible for the aid because they’re unable to work.

The money “doesn’t go as far as it used to,” she said.

“We’re not all equal under COVID-19.”

Possible solutions

Sikand wants to see the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group actually consult with people with disabilities and autism.

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“I’m a person with disability myself. (So far), I don’t know the impact of that committee on my quality of life and the response from the government,” Sikand said.

“Nothing about us without us.”






Coronavirus: One of Quebec’s most vulnerable groups says they are getting ignored by the government


Coronavirus: One of Quebec’s most vulnerable groups says they are getting ignored by the government

She also thinks policy needs to be created through the lenses of both disability and race.

“The disabled racialized community are even further on that marginalized side,” she said. “Unless we have them included in the planning process going forward, people will be harmed.”

Crooks agrees ⁠— change needs to be “community-driven and user-defined.”

READ MORE: Sore back, neck from working from home? Quick fixes to improve your workspace

“Changes can be difficult to implement overnight, and (they) require support,” Crooks said. “That’s why our most important first step is to actually look at what’s happening and to talk to people who are affected.

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“We need to actually hear solutions coming from all these people who are part of the care networks of individuals, including individuals themselves.”

Sikand says it’s urgent that these changes take place now before something like another COVID-19 outbreak happens again.

“We know this is not the first or the last pandemic we’ll see,” she said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

⁠— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and the Canadian Press

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