Changes at Parlee Beach means improved access for people with disabilities

New Brunswick’s largest beach will once again be open to the public starting Friday and visitors to Parlee Beach Provincial Park will notice some changes that include improved access for those with disabilities.

“We have been lobbying for years now to make the entire province accessible,” said Mathieu Stever, the manager of the ParaNB program with Ability New Brunswick

The provincial park is getting a $2-million facelift in advance of its second season in operation amid the pandemic. According to the province, funding for the upgrades is being applied from the capital improvement budgets from 2020 to 2022.

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The work includes upgrades to roads, entrances, the canteen, restaurant bar and patio area as well as improved access to the beach, according to the park’s manager, Michel Mallet, who said they partnered with Ability NB on the project starting in 2019.

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“We call it a comfort station, which is basically an accessible washroom and accessible charging room and shower outside,” said Mallet.

Improved sidewalks and beach-friendly wheelchairs will also be available for visitors, said Mallet.

He said an accessible playground is also being installed in the coming weeks. The hope is to have the upgrades ready by the end of the school year, he said.

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“I think it is great having Parlee Beach set the example of how you can renovate the beach and make it accessible for everyone because our motto is that everyone plays,” said Stever.

Stever said he hopes the initiative will encourage other provincial parks in the province to do similar upgrades.

“It is everyone’s right to be able to access all recreation activities in the province”, he said.

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Parlee Beach opens on Friday with COVID-19 protocols similar to last year, said Mallet.

All washrooms and changing rooms, even the accessible ones, will remain closed for now, he said.

Access to the provincial beach for vacationers from outside of the province will also depend on the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.

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Legislation introduced to provide income support program for Manitobans with severe disabilities

The province is introducing legislation to provide an income support program for Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities.

Current legislation puts Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities in the same category as those experiencing temporary losses of employment due to shorter-term or less severe disabilities.

The province says Bill 72 would create a program separate from Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) and include disability support payments and shelter assistance tailored to the specific needs of those who apply.

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Families minister Rochelle Squires says about 10,000 people will be moved into the new category.

“It will make life easier for them. They will not have to go back and prove on a regular basis that they still are impacted by their disability,” Squires said. “We believe this will be a great reduction in unnecessary regulatory requirements and paperwork and inconvenience for them.”

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“We’re also going to be moving forward with a better income for these individuals.”

NDP critic for persons with disabilities Danielle Adams claims “Bill 72 would propose sweeping changes to Manitoba’s income assistance programs, including how Manitobans are eligible for programs and what level of support they can receive.”


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Open House: Converting homes to safely age in place

The aging population spread of COVID-19 in care homes has lead to an increase in renovations on current homes to allow aging in place. One local company has been kept busy converting homes and especially bathrooms to safely allow people to stay in their homes longer.

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Alberta researchers want to improve transitional system for people with disabilities

Dr. Chester Ho, professor at the University of Alberta, says for years, patients with spinal cord injuries have been ringing the alarm about not having the same kind of access to disability care as those living in urban areas.

“We hear time after time from our patients that after they leave Glenrose or Foothills, they feel like they are falling off a cliff because although they got excellent services at these two regional centres… once they leave, it’s a whole different story,” explained Ho, who works in the division of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Ho, his assistant professor Adalberto Loyola-Sanchez and his team are looking for ways to make that transition period smoother for outpatients by exploring a model of transitional care that works like a hub and spokes system, akin to Alberta’s system of major and minor airports.

Edmonton and Calgary will primarily act as hubs, providing spinal cord injury specialty services and information to patients on managing their conditions.

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Whereas, health-care providers in communities outside of the two cities will be the spokes, providing ongoing care and support for outpatients in the community.

Ho says health-care providers in smaller communities that don’t regularly deal with spinal cord injuries often don’t have the experience or resources to manage the chronic issues that stem from the condition.

The four-year project was awarded a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s new Transitions in Care initiative. Several other entities have contributed funding for the project, totalling around $1 million.

Marty Rehman is one of Ho’s patients. Rehman, a Red Deer resident, sustained a spinal cord injury after falling and was left paralyzed from the neck down.

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He spent nearly a year at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary before moving back home.

During his recovery process, he experienced some major roadblocks.

“There’s really no applicable therapy or equipment in the Red Deer Hospital,” Rehman said.

“They don’t really have anything as an outpatient for the physiotherapy. There’s nothing there that will help me improve.”

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But then Ho stepped in to find a resolution to help Rehman get the adequate rehabilitation care he needed.

“He got me hooked up with the therapist in Lacombe., Alta. It’s about a 50-kilometre drive from here,” he added.

Rehman has since met others in the same situation, who’ve had to commute from out of town in to receive care, further highlighting the need for more rehabilitation programs and equipment across the province.

Rehman says he received excellent care in Lacombe and is now able to have some movement in his arms, which has allowed him to operate a wheelchair with a joystick instead of having to use a chin-controlled wheelchair.

Ho’s study is expected to be completed by 2023.

Currently, both Lethbridge and Slave Lake are participants in the pilot project, however, the team is hoping to eventually expand the number of spokes to cover the entire province.

The researchers’ plan is to build capacity in spoke communities and constant communication between the hubs and spokes wherein patients with spinal cord injuries will experience a more consistent level of care, along with fewer complications in their lives.

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The Claresholm & District Transportation Society is a non-profit that has been helping bridge the gap for nearly two decades by helping provide rides to seniors and those with disabilities to their medical appointments.

“We’ve had [a situation]… where they had to discharge somebody and they did it at eight o’clock at night,” said Howard Paulsen, chair of the Claresholm & District Transportation Society.

“They were calling up our transportation service because they had no other way of getting home, so we will pick them up and bring them back home.”

He added that their drivers are qualified professionals who often go out of their way to offer clients personal safety and comfort.

Paulsen says with doctor appointments being daunting enough, those using their services have expressed gratitude for the drivers being there for them in support.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Waiting list ‘abyss’ in N.S. for care and housing of people with disabilities: doctor

A Nova Scotia family doctor says people with intellectual disabilities can develop illnesses ranging from diabetes to stroke when forced to live in unsuitable housing without expert help.

Dr. Karen McNeil told a legislature committee today many families feel like they’re experiencing “an abyss” because their loved ones languish on a 1,698-person waiting list, either to begin receiving care or in hope of being transferred to a more suitable living arrangement.

McNeil is a founding member of the Dalhousie family medicine adult developmental disability clinic in Halifax, where since 2010 she has supported primary care doctors who care for adults with intellectual disabilities

She told the committee that larger, so-called “congregate care” facilities that house about 525 of the 4,979 adults receiving care are unsuitable and that it’s well established they should be living in smaller, community homes.

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McNeil says that’s particularly true during a pandemic when sharing bedrooms and bathrooms “is a recipe for disaster.”

The doctor says she sees people who are frustrated by living amid too much noise or who lack specialized care, leading to undiagnosed needs.

“When people with intellectual and development disabilities are forced to live in unhealthy situations, they try to communicate, and this is difficult when you have few words or no words,” McNeil told the Department of Community Services legislature committee.

“Sometimes they communicate very loudly, sometimes they get physical, sometimes they beat on themselves, sometimes out of desperation they beat on others.”

“I feel that they are telling us their environment is not suitable and in some cases it is oppressive,” she added.

The physician says family doctors often prescribe psychotropic medication because the province hasn’t created multidisciplinary teams of doctors who can probe the root causes of frustration. “There’s no reason we can’t create these teams,” she said. “And by not having this we are using more drugs. What do those drugs do? They create side effects such as diabetes and put them at risk of heart attack and stroke.”

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Facing eviction during COVID-19

Facing eviction during COVID-19

McNeil is part of the advocacy organization, Community Homes Action Group, which is urging the province to move more swiftly toward transferring people out of their congregate facilities – referred to as adult residential centres or regional rehabilitation centres – to small options homes where up to four people live with caregivers.

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Joyce d’Entremont, the chief executive of Mountains and Meadows Care Group, noted that a plan to shift 27 residents from Harbourside adult residential facility in Yarmouth to community homes – the first in the provincewide plan to phase out the institutions – has shown the process must take place at the pace that families and residents are comfortable with.

The Harbourside move, d’Entremont said, is happening over 12 to 18 months.

The hearing heard that Nova Scotia is the last jurisdiction in Canada to undertake the closure of institutions, after a moratorium on the construction of small options facilities occurred through the 1990s, as other provinces forged ahead with smaller residences.

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Maria Medioli, executive director of the disability support program, told the committee the advantage of being last is that the province has learned about the downside of shifting people into the community without adequate support.

“We have to set people up for success,” she said. “Some of these people have lived in an institution their whole lives. They’ve been told when to eat, when to sleep and who they have to live with. So to move to a community can be scary.”

The government has said in earlier news releases that it has budgeted $7.4 million in 2020-21 to create 50 new community placements, with plans to expand this transition “over the next several years.”

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Tracey Taweel, the deputy minister of Community Services, noted during today’s hearing that the department’s budget for the disabilities support program has grown $70 million in five years, to $389 million annually, with $75.5 million going toward the large congregate facilities.

She noted in her presentation that the province “remains fully committed to phasing out” the large facilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.

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Dalhousie University professor says older LGBTQ+ face challenges in accessing housing supports

Dalhousie University professor says older LGBTQ+ face challenges in accessing housing supports – Dec 30, 2020

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Wheelchair users urge proper sidewalk clearing after Saskatchewan snowstorm

Many Saskatchewan residents were stuck at home earlier this week after an intense snowstorm left hip-high snowdrifts in its wake. 

Some people trudged through the snow and dug out their vehicles, but a Saskatoon woman who uses a wheelchair still hasn’t left her house.

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“When snow isn’t cleared, it is so dangerous for people with disabilities,” Tasnim Jaisee told Global News.

“I couldn’t imagine living alone right now and … wondering, ‘How am I going to get food tomorrow?’”

Snow-covered sidewalks can prevent people with limited mobility from getting to work or medical appointments, said Bill Lehne, board president for Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan.

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“These exceptional circumstances of the weather really play havoc on our daily lives,” Lehne said in an interview.

“(Using) a manual wheelchair in this weather when cars are getting stuck is virtually impossible.”

Saskatoon was walloped with more than 30 cm of snow on the weekend. Lehne said it’s crucial snow gets cleared quickly and properly.

Tips for shovelling

After it snows, the city requires businesses shovel their walks within 24 hours, while residents have 48 hours. Paths cleared should be at least 1.2 metres wide.

It is crucial sidewalks are smooth and free of snow piles, Jaisee said. Curb ramps should be flush with the road.

Jaisee said she got stuck in a crosswalk two years ago because it hadn’t been shovelled properly.

“That was definitely one of the more scary experiences that I’ve had moving independently within the city,” she said.

Bill Lehne and Tasnim Jaisee say snow-covered sidewalks are a barrier for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

Bill Lehne and Tasnim Jaisee say snow-covered sidewalks are a barrier for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

Global News / Via Zoom

Parking lots, particularly accessible parking spots, also need to be cleared quickly and effectively, Lehne said.

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“I have a big truck. I can go through snow,” he said. “If that snow path is two feet to get to my truck, my big truck is useless.”

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Jaisee said accessibility is a problem every winter, so she’d like to see the city promote proper path clearing far before it snows.

“Helping hands go such a long way to making the lives of people with disabilities and wheelchair users a lot easier,” Jaisee said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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March of Dimes hosts virtual kitchen party fundraiser

It’s a new twist on a social gathering in a world of social distancing.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, March of Dimes Canada is hosting a virtual kitchen party to support Canadians living with disabilities during the second wave of COVID-19.

The Conquer the Curve Kitchen Cèilidh will invite participants to prepare dinner from home with step-by-step help from RCR executive chef Brooklyn Hillier. Then, while dining on their freshly cooked meal, watch a 45-minute virtual concert courtesy of folk musician JP Cormier.

“We’re really excited; this is our first virtual event in Halifax,” says Donna Williamson, regional manager at March of Dimes in Atlantic Canada.

Tickets for the Conquer the Curve Kitchen Cèilidh event can be purchased through the March of Dimes website. The $100 ticket includes dinner ingredients enough for two people to make Hillier’s confit of chicken pappardelle and a craft beer selection from Garrison Brewery.  There is also a $20 ticket option that provides a list of the ingredients needed for the dish in case participants are outside of Halifax but still want to partake in the event.

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Participants receive a Zoom invite via email and instructions on how to pick up their meal kit at Garrison Brewery while following COVID-19 safety protocols.

March of Dimes Canada is a community-based rehabilitation advocacy charity for people with physical disabilities. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization launched an emergency campaign, Conquer the Curve, to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people with disabilities.

According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, one in four Canadians – about 25 per cent of the population – has a disability.

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“Right now, we’re all feeling isolated and lonely, cut off from our friends and family,” Williamson says. “This is what people with disabilities feel every day — even more so during the pandemic.”

According to the March of Dimes website, people living with disabilities are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, with isolation and proper access to necessities remaining a critical issue.

Valorie Crooks, a professor of health geography at Simon Fraser University, says people with disabilities are experiencing “ongoing systemic challenges in accessing and experiencing preventative care” and expects higher rates of COVID-19 among this group.

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Funds raised from events like the Conquer the Curve Kitchen Cèilidh ensure vital programs can continue to keep those living with disabilities connected and supported while they self-isolate during the second wave of COVID-19.

“Whether it’s through virtual programming or telephone-based services — so that we can really help support (them) during this pandemic and unprecedented times,” Williamson says.

For more information on the Conquer the Curve Kitchen Cèilidh and to purchase tickets, click here.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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