Keep the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) free for people with disabilities.
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As of 2018, the CNE has decided to do away with its long-standing policy and tradition of allowing people with disabilities and their attendants/caregivers to enter free of charge.
For many people with mobility and sensory disabilities, about two thirds of what is available at the CNE is not accessible to them to even enjoy, like the rides and games. They are basically free to walk around and see a few shows or grab a bite to eat. For many people with disabilities, the CNE represents a place where they can be social with friends and families.
The new policy will require people with disabilities to pay full admission, or 50% admission with a valid Access 2 Entertainment card, and will continue to give free admission to caregivers/attendents.
The primary argument from the Advisory Council implementing this change in policy is that issues of disability ought to be kept separate from financial need, or rather that disability does not necessarily equal financial need.
Whether or not a person with a disability is employed in Canada, financial hardship is a very pressing issue faced by most people with moderate to severe disabilities. There are some very real and hard facts that do show of a direct link between financial need and disability:
- Less than 6% of Canadians with moderate to severe disabilities attain a post-secondary education
- Of those with post-secondary educations, the vast majority are either severely underemployed or unemployed.
- According to stats Canada, only 30-50% of people with moderate disabilities are employed
- Equal employment opportunity legislation for people with disabilities was struck down by the federal courts in 2006
- People on ODSP – the Ontario Disability Support Program receive on average between $800-$1000 per month. ODSP does not fund in any way transportation for people with disabilities outside of medical appointments. This means that many people with disabilities have to pay 1/8-1/10 of their income on transportation or remain largely secluded at home if they cannot afford it.
- ODSP also does not fund attendant care services. Attendant care services that are funded by our government include basic activities for daily living, like eating, bathing, meal prep, dressing, toileting, etc. There is no funded attendant care service for people who require assistance to go out of their home for social activities. This means that many people with disabilities cannot engage in community activities because they cannot afford a caregiver to accompany them.
- The current minimum wage for caregivers in Ontario is $16.50.
- Not all medications or necessary dental care is covered by ODSP, even when prescribed.
Of those citizens with disabilities who are employed in Ontario, the benefits and assistance are cut dramatically. For example, the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) that funds mobility and writing aids for people with disabilities will only cover 70% of a mobility aid for people not on ODSP, and will no longer fund writing aids. Wheelchairs are only built to last five years. Most motorized wheelchairs cost between $35,000-$50,000, of which 30% means that every five years working adults with mobility impairments are paying between $10,000 and $15,000 for a wheelchair every five years. They will also be required to fund their own lifts (roughly $10,000) pay repairs on all of their equipment, their medications unless provided through their work, and pay out-of-pocket for leisure related attendant care (including paying for travel, accommodation, and food for caregivers travelling with them for any reason--even work or academically-related). Employed persons with disabilities also lose out on assistance with a communication aid every five years, which helps people who need things like DragonDictate or text magnifiers. In many cases, people with disabilities who work lose housing subsidies in the amount of $800 – $1000 per month.
This list of disability related expenses is by no means exhaustive.
Because of the loss of assistance, services, and funding, many people with disabilities will not venture into the workforce (even if they are able to work full time) because the cost to them is not worth the massive loss in supports.
Unfortunately, many people with disabilities cannot, or rarely can, afford recreational activity, even when their caregivers are given free admission to recreational places within the community. For many people with disabilities, the CNE represented one place that we could still go and look forward to at the end of every summer without worrying about paying admission. Indeed, the CNE would have repeat visitors with disabilities throughout the Ex's season attending with friends or family because of the free admission policy.
While the CNE has promised to “create a more accessible environment for people with disabilities” https://www.google.ca/search?q=calculator&oq=calcu&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j69i65j69i59j0l3.7254j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8many of the people who they hope to serve will not be able to see these benefits as they may no longer be able to justify going.
This new policy is truly a step backwards toward social equality for people with disabilities. Please sign this petition if you feel that the CNE should remain free to people with disabilities as it has for so many years.
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