ActivismAdvocacyDisabilityDisability Rights

When Disabled People Are Not Included In Inclusion

This morning I answered the survey for “Let’s Talk Budget 2022” and I’ve been on a slow burn ever since. It just exploded in a twitter rant, which hasn’t satisfied the fire, so I will continue here.

You may have seen references to EDI, which stands for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, or  GBA+ which stands for Gender-Based Analysis Plus. They’re acronyms for excellent ways of working – ensuring that people in marginalized communities are included in all the structures of our society – racialized people, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, gender, and, well, disabled people. But, it seems disabled people are regularly missing. They’re not included in the inclusion piece.

A moment to have some information on who Canada’s disabled people are. They make up almost 25% of the population – yes – 1 in 4 – a quarter! And, disability is the only marginalized group anyone can join at any time. I will not wake up tomorrow as a black person, but one day I did wake up disabled. Of these 25% of people who are disabled, at least 1.7 million are living in poverty – a number from before the pandemic. It’s probably closer to 2 million people now.

Disabled people are pretty amazing. They’re resilient, fun to be with, capable of achieving incredible things. They work, study, have families. They’re pretty much like everyone else, The only problem is, when it comes to societal structures, disabled people are forgotten and invisible. Which brings me to my rant of the day.

The budget is important to disabled people. Alongside all of the possible plans the government has for everyone, disabled people need some targeted supports. During the whole pandemic, we received one payment of $600 if we qualified. Rules in other economic programs like CERB cut disabled people out, or clawed back benefits that they already had, leaving them no further ahead.

The big hope right now is for the new benefit the government has proposed – the Canada Disability Benefit. The idea is this is a supplement that is added to other benefits, so that those who live in abject poverty get lifted to the poverty line. It doesn’t sound like much in some ways – people still live at poverty line, or just above poverty line, but it’s a damn sight better than the current situation. For example, if you live in Toronto, the poverty line is over $2,000 and the Ontario disability payment, ODSP, is $1169. Abject poverty.

What needs to happen to make this bill a reality? It needs the government who proposed it to pass it into law. It needs government ministers to support it, and it needs the department of finance to be behind it.

Which is what gets me to today and this survey about the budget. Getting back to EDI and GBA+, the way things happen these days is there’s typically a question that refers to marginalized groups these days. The question in this survey looks like this:

Question 6 from lets talk budget 2022

It has 12 check box options. It explicitly mentions BIPOC, LGBTQ+, racialized people and gender inequalities. And that all excellent! It should do. Those marginalized communities need to be brought into the light and for there to be economic opportunities tailored to them.

There’s not one mention of the word disability.

There’s the word accessible in relation to training, but that could mean anything. Everyone needs training to be made more accessible, from the ways it’s offered, to the costs, to making courses eligible to people with all kinds of background. It does not, explicitly, mean the types of accessibility disabled people need.

There’s mention of access to mental health services and cheaper medications. Again, these are not explicitly for disabled people, even though they benefit from them. In this pandemic, many Canadians are accessing mental health services  – everyone needs to take care of their mental health. Disabled people with mental illnesses need different supports.

So, not one option in the inclusion question relates to disabled people directly. 

All people who live in Canada can complete this survey. They see this question and it reinforces the needs of our marginalized communities because they see the words. They read the names. The word they don’t read is disability. Not only are we missing from the question, but our invisibility in society is reinforced by not being present. 

We need to be seen, to be present, for all Canadians to have an option to click on that suggests disabled people would also benefit from programs in our covid recovery. We need the department that holds the purse strings to recognize we are here, we are wonderful, and we need the same level of inclusion as everyone else.

Include us, see us, support us.

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Michelle in wheelchair with lightsaber fighting Dart Vader