People who live with learning disabilities are concerned new legislation will limit their ability to access the help they need.
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington, Ont., is the recipient of the latest local funding announcement by the federal and provincial governments.
RBG is receiving almost $1.7 million towards improvements and repairs to its properties.
CEO Nancy Rowland says the work will include reconstruction of a boathouse, a viewing platform and a boardwalk as well as repairs to nature trails and garden paths, all part of the RBG’s 25-year master plan.
RBG will also be updating wayfinding signage and installing audio units at major entrances to adhere to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
“As Ontarians turn to nature for both physical and mental health wellbeing during these challenging times,” Rowland said, “this initiative will provide Royal Botanical Gardens with the tools to significantly improve access” to its properties.
“We are very much committed at RBG to providing a safe destination for people from all walks of life,” she added, “and this investment will help even more people experience RBG.”
The Government of Canada is investing more than $908,000 in the project through the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan.
The Government of Ontario is providing more than $756,000, and the Royal Botanical Gardens is contributing more than $605,000.
The installation of an entry gate for the Hendrie Valley Trails and an expansion of the Rock Trail parking lot are also included in the project.
Burlington MP Karina Gould said the result will be “a more enjoyable visitor experience.”
MPP Jane McKenna, the city’s provincial representative, said she’s “delighted that visitors to the Royal Botanical Gardens will benefit from our joint investments.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Jaime Manness of Hike Manitoba joins Global News Morning to chat about her book that guides you through Manitoba through hiking.
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.
“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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
In New York, NPR calculated the data based on numbers collected by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
Hossack wrote that the group discusses disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps as well as strategies, measures and steps to be taken.
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.
“(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.”
Sikand wants to see the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group actually consult with people with disabilities and autism.
“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
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.”
“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.
“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.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and the Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Pickering has approved the world’s first fully-accessible condo, planned for a parcel of land north of Highway 401 on Pickering Parkway.
It’s a development that officials say will fill a need in both the community and the region.
“I’ve sat on the accessibility committee here in Pickering for about four years now and we saw a number of designs and graphics and blue prints that would come in for development in the community, and none of them were accessible or they’d be minimum,” said Dan Hughes, Liberty Hamlets Inc., president and managing director, explaining that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires condominiums to be 15 per cent accessible.
“I wanted to come in and build a company that was focused on building a unit fully-accessible, designed 100 per cent that way,” Hughes said.
Axess Condos has been Dan Hughes’ vision for the past three years and it will soon start to take shape.
“There’s nothing that’s been built, purpose-built that actually meets the needs of this community,” said Pickering mayor Dave Ryan, “and I think that’s the exciting and innovative proportion of it.”
The facility will house 336 units. Since launching a registration list three weeks ago, 105 people have signed up, including Peter Bashaw.
The retired senior is looking to downsize as well as a place for his family.
“My daughter is 26 right now, she’s living with us, she has disabilities,” Bashaw said. “This would give her maybe some independence, and there would also be some respite care for us.”
“We brought in a company called Trillium Support Services out of Peel Region and they will be providing PWS and respite workers right in the building so that services can be purchased right at the concierge,” Hughes added. “And so it really is providing a building that is all encompassing for all the supports and cares a family needs with an adult with a disability.”
The plan is to break ground in June, with the fully-accessible facility expected to be completed and owners ready to move in in early 2021.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
What is ‘RISE?’
RISE is an original Global News video production debuting on YouTube, profiling women who are being seen and heard in a variety of industries. They’re leaders in their expertise and in essence, their own bosses – rising to the challenge and unlocking opportunities in their careers.
Episode 1: Maayan Ziv, founder and CEO of AccessNow
Maayan Ziv is the founder and CEO of AccessNow, a mobile app that maps out the accessibility of places around the world.
Episode 2: Eva Wong, Co-Founder and COO of Borrowell
Eva Wong is a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Borrowell, a Canadian company that offers free credit scores and personal loans.
Episode 3: Karen Moore, Writer and Producer of film and TV
Karen Moore is a writer and producer of films as well as television – who’s worked on CBC’s Workin’ Moms and is writing for Mary Kills People.
Episode 4: Jennifer Huether, Master Sommelier
Jennifer Huether is the first female Master Sommelier in Canada and currently works with Jackson Family Wines.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.