Redefining ‘disability’

Every September, Toronto Disability Pride March advocates for inclusivity for all

Two TDPM protestors watch as speakers give speeches in front of Queen's Park on Sept. 22.  NIDA ZAFAR/ TORONTO OBSERVER

A year ago, the hashtag #InvisiblyDisabledLooksLike spread across Twitter. Its purpose was to compete with the idea that disabilities are solely physical.

Multiple invisible disabilities, such as chronic pain, HIV and multiple sclerosis can also fall into the category of being an episodic disability. An episodic disability is not something that is constant. It’s invisible, unpredictable and can fluctuate with each episode or instance, according to Odelia Bay, a PhD student at Osgoode Hall who has one.

“I went to sleep one night as I always did and I woke up with numbness in my hands,” she said. “That’s how it started.”

Bay spoke at the TDPM. The event was a call for support for those who identify as being disabled. (NIDA ZAFAR/ TORONTO OBSERVER)

Bay suffers from MS. According to WebMd, one of the symptoms associated with MS is pain, which something else she experiences at times.

Bay said it’s difficult to predict when she will suffer from any of the symptoms associated with MS.

Advocating for invisible disabilities

In addition to being a student, Bay is an advocate for people like herself. At the moment, her advocacy work is largely focused on the academic side. She’s currently completing a dissertation exploring how episodic disabilities can affect a person’s experience at work.

Bay also loaned her voice to this year’s Toronto Disability Pride March. She was one of the speakers and grand marshals for the Sept. 22 event.

The annual march was held to protest against albeism, favouring people who aren’t disabled over those who are, and oppression of all types . it also celebrated all forms of disability.

Changes in funding

Some of the concerns raised at the march revolved around the multiple changes to financial assistance that followed the election of Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.

They include the cancellation of Ontario’s basic income pilot project and the reversal of the previous Liberal government’s decision to increase payments for Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The previous government had planned to increase welfare by 3 per cent. The new government cut that amount in half.

The ODSP is designed to provide financial support to people with disabilities. OW provides support for people with a temporary financial need.

How much do they get?

The OW rate for a single person is $733 monthly. The rate for a couple with two children is $1,250.

The ODSP rate for a single person is $1,169 monthly. The rate for a couple with two children is $1,887.

Source: Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services

But the provincial government is in the process of overhauling the social assistance program.

In an emailed statement, Kristen Tedesco, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, said that the new plan will help Ontarians lift themselves out of poverty.

“One in seven people are currently living below the poverty line in Ontario,” she said, adding that the rate in which people enroll in social assistance programs continues to rise.

Credit: Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services

The Ford government plans to unveil the changes on Nov. 8.

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Posted: Sep 24 2018 7:55 pm
Filed under: News