Courtenay’s John Higginbotham was skeptical provincial supports for people with disabilities would improve when community consultations were announced last year by government.
But, now that he’s read the Disability Consultation Report and gone over the recently released Accessibility 2024 Action Plan, he says he’s less doubtful.
“I have to say I was impressed that they are trying to determine whether or not they are successful in making some transformations by requiring numbers,” says Higginbotham, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and is a member of the Comox Valley Accessibility Committee.
“It’s all positive, if it works out – I mean the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. It’s one thing saying, ‘we’re going to do this and that’ – some of the things that they say are very easy to do and would make life easier, wouldn’t cost much money – some of the other things that people are … needing are more expensive.”
12 building blocks
The action plan includes 12 building blocks for accessibility: inclusive government; accessible service delivery; accessible Internet; accessible built environment; accessible housing; accessible transportation; income support; employment; financial security; inclusive communities; emergency preparedness; and consumer experience.
A goal is listed for each building block, plus how government will measure its success in reaching that goal.
For example, to measure success in creating more accessible housing options, government will look at the percentage of B.C. publicly-owned housing that is accessible and the percentage of new homes that are built to be accessible.
“That’s a very good thing because accessible housing is difficult for everybody,” Higginbotham says from his wheelchair-friendly home in Courtenay.
“There’s 27 units here, almost all main-floor units – this is the only building I can get into … I put in a ramp; I got (the unit) in the framing stage so I was able to make some changes.”
Higginbotham adds the inclusive government building block is another interesting part of the action plan.
“They’re talking about getting an accessibility secretariat, which means that there would be a place where people could go for all-in-one services, for getting some guidance,” he says.
“If they do create (one) – a secretary of the disabled, all of that can help.”
Funding still needed
However, Higginbotham says a lack of committed funding to some of the more costly improvements asked for during the consultations is a sticking point for him.
“They expect people on disability to live on $906 a month,” he says, noting the action plan says: ‘Consider disability assistance rate increases as the fiscal situation allows.’
“That’s one of the problems that I personally have with it is when they say they want to be the most progressive (province in the country), but they’re not willing to spend and they’re not willing to look at a preventative or proactive approach.”
Accessible transportation is another area he says would be costly to improve, but is an area where improvement is very important.
Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, who is the Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, thanks everyone who came to one of the 19 community consultation sessions, gave feedback via one of the various other methods, such as online, by phone or e-mail.
“Together with the disability and business communities, our government will forge ahead with a shared roadmap,” McRae says in a statement.
“Your contributions have guided this consultation and will lead us as we continue the work needed to become the most progressive place to live in Canada for people with disabilities.”
To view the Accessibility 2024 Action Plan, visit http://engage.gov.bc.ca/disabilitywhitepaper/.