Don McRae says he wants to make B.C. the most progressive province for persons with disabilities in Canada.
The Social Development and Social Innovation Minister and Comox Valley MLA says his ministry will start working toward that goal by first finding out what issues British Columbians say persons with disabilities face in the province.
“We’re actually going to go out and have consultation with the public — the persons with disabilities community, their families, advocacy organizations, employers, general society — and see what they believe we can do to become the most progressive jurisdiction,” says McRae, adding community input with be used to create a Disability White Paper.
Consultation was launched Dec. 3, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and there are plenty of ways to provide input until the deadline March 11.
Nineteen in-person community meetings around the province are scheduled in the early New Year, with the first set for Jan. 20 in Courtenay. Details of the place and time will be released closer to the date.
Alternately, comments can be made by mail, (Disability White Paper, PO Box 9936, Stn Prov Gov, Victoria B.C., V8W 9R2), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (1-800-661-8773), Twitter (#disabilitybc), online at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/disabilitywhitepaper, or by hosting a discussion using a toolkit located on the website.
There are six topic areas listed for the consultation:
• Innovation in disability services and more accessibility for persons living with disabilities;
• Personal supports, aids and devices;
• Work and contribution;
• Housing and accessibility in the broader-built environment;
• Social networks to support people in community;
• Asset accumulation through the Registered Disability Savings Plan in particular.
The Comox Valley Child Development Association (CVCDA) serves more than 800 Comox Valley children with disabilities and their families each year. Association executive director Lorraine Aitken says consulting directly with persons with disabilities is “critically important” to improving supports and reducing barriers.
“But the biggest challenge is getting from talk to action,” she continues. “Provincial groups such as the BC Association for Child Development and Intervention (BCACDI) and Inclusion BC keep government well informed about gaps in services and funding, wait list numbers and wait times, and regularly provide concrete suggestions for reducing barriers and improving supports.
“But at the same time, we are all experiencing the ‘do more with less’ reality. Not-for-profit agencies like the Child Development Association are as lean as we can be, while we see first-hand the stress and challenges for families and individuals that are waitlisted for critical supports and services.”
The Disability White Paper will be released in May, and a provincial summit in June will bring disability, business, government and community representatives together to develop strategies and actions.
“We’re trying to make the roadmap or the framework for the action of this ministry and this government for years to come,” adds McRae.