How a national disability benefit would improve my life — and the lives of so many others

Posted on October 9, 2021 in Social Security Debates

Source: — Authors: – Opinion/Contributors
Oct. 8, 2021.   By Sandy Carrier, Contributor

The federal election is over. During the campaign, three political parties promised to help people with disabilities get out of poverty. The Liberal party was one of them, promising a national income benefit for people with disabilities. People like me are depending on them to follow through on that promise.

I’m one of more than six million Canadians with a disability. More than 40 per cent of people who live below the poverty line in Canada have a disability.

Poverty makes my life challenging. COVID-19 made it worse. A national disability benefit would improve my life in many ways.

COVID-19 has been isolating for me. These days, people reply on technology and the internet for education, socialization and work. After paying for rent and food, I don’t have enough money to pay for home internet.

Without internet during the pandemic, I was lonely and limited in what I could do. Lockdown meant I couldn’t go see my friends. Without internet access, I couldn’t even contact them easily. When events were offered online, I couldn’t participate.

Social connections are important for mental and physical health — being connected to other people helps many of us get through tough times. These connections also help keep people safe in the community.

A national disability benefit could also help me find a better place to live. My choices are limited by my income; subsidized housing in my province has long wait lists.

I have thought about moving many times. The shared laundry room, restrictions on pets, and having to live near other people — especially during a global pandemic — are just a few of the reasons.

Employment is complicated too. For lots of people with disabilities, we can’t rely on it as steady income.

Although many companies talk about how important diversity is in the workplace, in my experience that diversity often ends with a disability. If you do get hired, provincial income support programs have strict rules about how much money people can earn. Going over the limit could mean losing access to health benefits — that’s terrifying for many people with disabilities!

A national disability benefit would help people like me improve our living conditions and be less isolated. It would have a positive impact on our health and wellness. It would raise us out of poverty and allow us to live with dignity.

The promises made in this federal election matter. They are important to me; they are important to your friends, family members and neighbours who face similar barriers.

You can help make sure our new government honours their promise to people with disabilities. Call, email or write to your local MP. Tell them why a national disability income benefit matters to you.

Sandy Carrier lives with autism spectrum disorder and is an artist and advocate for people living with disabilities. She was a member of the income security advisory committee for Inclusion Canada.

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