by Sheri Marino I am writing this viewpoint in regard to the state of our disabled in BC.
Recently, a federal budget and provincial budget have been tabled and yet again there is no mention or help for our disabled.
More and more of our disabled (our truly vulnerable) are being forced to live in extreme poverty simply because we were either born disabled or became disabled in our lifetime. Our government allows a maximum of $907 a month to live on and I ask you—in today’s world could you live off that?
That money comes provided you can obtain your PWD (Persons with Disabilities) status, something this provincial government has made almost impossible to obtain if you're an adult. Plus, with a lack of family doctors here in town it has become even harder.
The lines at the Salvation Army have increased tenfold and I worry about them being able to handle the ever-increasing load put on them. Last Friday when I was there it broke my heart in ways I can't even express without crying. There were roughly 150 people there and half were seniors, a quarter were our disabled. They represented people who were able to get there for help.
We have disabled people forced to beg on street corners in the big cities and people walk right by them, not seeming to care. We are falling through the cracks in ways that won't reflect well on our province or our people for that matter. Yet sadly, I see no mention in our media as to the plight of our disabled. Have we stopped caring altogether?
Did you know this so-called feel-good approach our provincial government started a few years back, by allowing our disabled to work and keep $800 dollars a month, is just that—a government feel-good initiative? Only five per cent of our disabled can max this out, 15 per cent make it half way but 80 per cent face multiple barriers to employment and it helps them not at all.
So I ask again—does anyone care?
I'm sorry we can't die fast enough to loosen the load, so to speak, but we are here and we need help. We are being punished for daring to be disabled and this is so not right. The true measurement of a society is how well we take care of our seniors, children and disabled. We are failing in all three areas. We have seniors who are forced to choose between food, rent and prescriptions, BC has the second highest poverty rate in Canada and our disabled are falling between the cracks and are being forced to beg for help just to stay alive. Is this a BC to take pride in? I think not.
Now, perhaps my words will fall on deaf ears but I have to try to help however I can because I can't seem to wake up anymore without tears in my eyes watching and hearing of so many suffering. Please, I beg of the media, focus some attention on the plight of our disabled before we face a system breakdown and you start to find us dead on your street corners.
Sheri Marino is a resident of Powell River and autism advocate.