By Moira Stilwell, M.D.
Minister of Social Development
Dec. 1, 2012
VICTORIA - When we talk about a society being inclusive and accessible for individuals with disabilities, what does that really mean? What supports will help people with disabilities pursue their goals and dreams while taking care of their families?
These are important questions to consider if we want to ensure the more than 700,000 British Columbians living with a disability have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and provide for their families.
Disabilities can range from visual, speech and hearing impairments, to physical disabilities such as challenges with mobility, agility and pain, to developmental disabilities and disabilities relating to mental health. Right now, nearly 86,000 individuals with disabilities receive supports from the Province through disability assistance. As well, over 15,000 individuals with developmental disabilities are supported by Community Living BC, with supports ranging from direct services, residential care and home sharing, to needs assessment, liaison with community organizations and crisis response.
Dec. 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and I want to share some of the work being done by this government to support individuals with disabilities in B.C. to live inclusive, independent lives.
We have a number of programs and initiatives across government to support British Columbians with disabilities. They are designed to protect the most vulnerable, ensure the greatest possible level of health and mobility, provide supports to level the employment playing field, help people with disabilities support their families, and ensure accessibility so that individuals with disabilities can participate fully in their community.
Our government provides assistance through supports like medical aids and income assistance, specialized transportation options and supportive housing developments, as well as education, training, and employment resources to help level the playing field so that a disability isn't an impediment to pursuing a career.
For children and youth with disabilities, we ensure that programs and safeguards are in place to give kids a chance to go to school, participate in activities and pursue their own goals and dreams. And, by supporting organizations that encourage activities for individuals with disabilities, including sports activities, angling fee reductions and even waivers for camping and parking fees at BC parks, we are helping to support accessible, inclusive communities.
All of these programs and services are designed to support British Columbians in fulfilling their own potential and that of their families. However, when we talk about helping individuals with disabilities, it's not just about meeting current needs - it's about having a plan for the future.
As part of meeting our commitments as a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the B.C. government has created a cross-ministry group to explore ways that the many ministries and government agencies can better collaborate in providing supports for people with disabilities. Ultimately, this group will create a comprehensive Provincial Disability Strategy that will better align initiatives across sectors to improve outcomes for those with disabilities.
We know that when barriers are removed, and people with disabilities are able to participate fully in their communities and support their families, everyone benefits. Let's continue to work together to ensure that every British Columbian has the chance to take full advantage of the amazing opportunities our province has to offer.