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.”

Story continues below advertisement






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.”

Story continues below advertisement






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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.”



© 2020 The Canadian Press





Source link

‘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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

“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.

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

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Story continues below advertisement

“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





Source link

COMMENTARY: Robots don’t get sick. Will COVID-19 speed up workplace automation? – National


What is an essential worker? The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the very idea on its head. Retail salespeople, entertainers and baristas do not make the cut. Grocery clerks, warehouse stockers and delivery people do.

Without these workers, the “rest of us” would starve and run out of toilet paper. Together with health-care workers and first responders, who have always been essential, they form the front line in the war against COVID-19.

Not surprisingly, the value of these unsung heroes has increased. Grocery chains have given their cashiers raises. Amazon employees are demanding personal protective equipment. When companies fail to support their personnel, they get negative publicity. They are thus scrambling to safeguard workers — and their reputations — by making changes. Changes that cost money — and that in low-margin businesses, like food, might be impossible to sustain in the long term, unless they substantially increase the price of their goods.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Hamilton researchers hope ‘robot colleagues’ will help step up coronavirus testing

Some observers claim this heralds a new era. We will place greater value on these essential jobs. Society will grant them more respect, and companies will grant them higher wages. Finally, we will realize the value of this work — work that has long been taken for granted.

In the short term, this is true. But in the long term, things may be quite different.

When workers become more expensive, the incentive to find alternatives to their labour increases. In a pandemic, businesses also need to account for costs associated with the spread of disease. Combine these two factors, and the most effective way to “pandemic-proof” your business is to remove humans from the equation as much as possible.

In other words, to automate.






Coronavirus outbreak: Drone deliveries help elderly Chileans vulnerable to COVID-19


Coronavirus outbreak: Drone deliveries help elderly Chileans vulnerable to COVID-19

Consider the grocery store. Cashiers are commanding a premium and need to be protected from infection. But there are other ways of paying for groceries. Prior to COVID-19, stores had already introduced self-checkouts. The existing self-checkout model is not an option, as shared screens could spread disease. But if self-checkout could be connected to customers’ personal mobile devices, allowing them to scan items and pay from their own screen, this would reduce costs and keep food prices down.

Story continues below advertisement

Food processing plants could also benefit from increased automation. A Cargill meat plant in High River, Alta., for example, was recently closed after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and hundreds of other cases were reported. The cost to the plant is enormous, as is the cost of negative publicity to the entire meat industry. The incentive to replace workers with machines increases exponentially in such situations.

Robots don’t get sick. They don’t strike. They don’t demand higher wages for dangerous jobs. In fact, they are ideal for dangerous jobs. Which, in a pandemic, is any job that requires interaction with people.

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic raises question — is it time for a basic income?

What could be the consequences of accelerating automation of these essential jobs? Ironically, it dovetails with another policy shift that is emerging from the pandemic: the call for a universal basic income, or UBI.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, governments around the world are paying people a basic income to allow them to stay home and curb the spread of disease. Supporters of UBI argue that such payments should remain after the pandemic subsides and replace existing income support programs, such as employment insurance and welfare.

Before the pandemic, however, these advocates often cited a different reason for UBI: increasing automation. Well before COVID-19, they envisioned a future of less available work for humans and a greater need for income support.

Story continues below advertisement

For some people, this crisis may produce that future. Jobs that can be automated will be automated at an accelerated rate. The cashier, the food plant worker, the trucker: all are vulnerable to automation. Today’s heroes may need some support to transition to the new economy, as they risk being replaced at a faster rate than they would have in a pre-COVID-19 world.






Robots and drive-thrus: how some funeral homes are holding services amid COVID-19


Robots and drive-thrus: how some funeral homes are holding services amid COVID-19

But will this be the case for all workers? The answer is no. While some retail jobs will be replaced by online ordering, demand for others will return as customers, shuttered in their homes, seek a return to human contact. People will get out again to restaurants and stores and attend live events and performances. Jobs that cannot be automated, or that derive value from human interaction, will return.

We should not forget that just a month ago, unemployment rates in Canada were at historic lows, even as technology constantly accelerated. This is because while new technologies displace some workers, they open opportunities for others.

Story continues below advertisement

Ten years ago, no one was a digital marketing specialist, social media monitor or Instagrammer. While it is unrealistic to assume that displaced grocery clerks will suddenly all become app developers and chief idea officers, those people and their companies will need support services that the displaced clerks might be able to provide down the line.

A permanent UBI is therefore not the right remedy for economic dislocation spawned by the pandemic, whether through automation or otherwise. Then, as now, income support should be targeted to people who need it, not to those who will be able to resume their employment. People who were paid to stay home are not owed more funds when the crisis is over. These should go to people who did not take that money and risked their well-being for the rest of us in our common time of need.

Tasha Kheiriddin is the founder and CEO of Ellipsum Communications and a Global News contributor.






Source link