Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The threat of being poor while disabled

The treat of being poor in North America looms even larger when you are disabled. Not only do you have to battle your handicap, but the battle often means you can not work and earn money.

The North Star News from Perry Sound, Ontario profiles an organization called Friends that helps the disabled stay away from being poor.

“When you have people in Parry Sound who can barely keep their homes heated, multiply the issues when they have a disability because they’re already on a low income,” said Marliese Gause from the Friends, a care centre that supports people with long-term health needs.

“That doesn’t even take into account the things that you and I take for granted.

Some entertainment. Socialization. A little bit of money so you don’t always feel like the poorest kid on the block. In times when we … worry about cutting and slashing and all the rest of it, the problem is these individuals have been living with this all along.”

Those with disabilities encounter problems that able-bodied people couldn’t imagine.

Jo-Anne Demick, executive director of Community Living Parry Sound, works with people with developmental or intellectual disabilities and says they are among the poorest groups in Ontario.

According to statistics from Community Living Ontario, people with developmental disabilities experience rates of poverty that are 13 per cent higher than others.

Community Living is a provincially-funded organization that provides a range of support services such as day support, education, respite, employment and housing services.

Demick says the reason people with disabilities live in poverty is because they don’t have the same access to support systems, education and employment.

It’s a vicious cycle because they rely on support — whether it’s an educational assistant in school or a support worker as an adult – to get education and employment to escape poverty.

Even worse, families that have a family member with a disability have a greater likelihood of living in poverty, says Demick.

Often that’s because a parent has to give up or will lose their job in order to provide support for their child.

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