By Sarah Harrower
Living with a disability can teach you a lot of things; how to adapt where others may see an obstacle, knowing that you might have to navigate a path that looks different than anyone else, and that’s OK. However, there can be struggles that are a little more difficult to discuss, for example, when you consider the idea of disability and poverty. As a member of the community myself living with cerebral palsy for my entire life, I hope that through hearing a little bit of my story and sharing a little bit of my journey that we can understand what the challenges are and how we can work towards a future with disability without poverty.
I am fortunate to be in a position where I can pursue an education and find something I want to do with my life which is working in communications, more specifically, journalism. However, like many in my community, most of us have many skills we can offer. More often than not, we are motivated to contribute to our communities. What can be frustrating is the lack of opportunity and the misconceptions around what is possible for someone with a visible or non-visible disability. In most provinces, there are supports and social assistance available to help with necessities and accommodations for Alberta; there is the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program; in my current situation, I am living in a supportive living facility that operates with the funding model that takes 80% of my income supports every month and technically speaking leaves me with just enough to be considered just over the poverty line. You wouldn’t ask an able-bodied person to live on $300 a month, but somehow, being disabled, you are supposed to manage? Does that make no sense? I know, especially over the last two years, with the rising cost of living and inflation, things can be difficult. I have to be mindful of how to make money and try not to make too much or work too many hours because that would result in benefits being cut back. It is a vicious cycle that does not encourage incentive to pursue opportunities and can penalize those that do and want to strive for more, so it first creates poverty and then wants to keep people there. This system is broken. More needs to be done to fix it.
That is why we must take action on and support the design and implement the Canada Disability Benefit. This benefit would help me and so many others across the country, people who, often, worry about their expenses and the added cost that can come with living with a disability. No longer having to choose what to do without, we have to rely on friends and family to get by month to month. We can ensure that by supporting this benefit, Canadians with disabilities can envision a future that doesn’t involve living in poverty. Learn about the potential for a Canada Disability Benefit and what you can do to help today.