by Danica Frappier
When it comes to funding for assistive devices in Canada, we do not have universal access. Numerous Canadians with disabilities are often forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for life-enabling devices. In Ontario, we are fortunate to have an Assistive Devices Program (ADP), which provides government-subsidized equipment for people with long-term disabilities. However, the ADP has been left to languish by Ontario governments past and present.
As an individual living with sight loss in Northern Ontario, it is frustrating that people like me often wait one to two years before being assessed for a high-tech visual aid which helps us access the world around us. Also, most of us need to travel hundreds of kilometres to our nearest assessment centre. Imagine how it would feel to be left for years without crucial equipment that allows you to be independent and fully participate in society.
Our community has seen a rapid decline in numbers of visual aid vendors over the years. Vendors have largely packed up shop because reimbursement levels from the government no longer cover their costs, rendering their business completely unviable. The provincial government claims that Ontario is “open for business”, but when we try to purchase assistive devices, we are left with little choice in vendors, and equipment for that matter.
For many years, disability organizations have called on the Ontario government to carry out a review of the ADP and make significant improvements. When you read the approved visual aid products list, there are items on there that have not been manufactured for several years. We do not want to see this program fall into such disrepair that it becomes completely impractical, setting the disability community back decades.
How many more years will Ontarians with disabilities have to wait before our government takes action to improve access to assistive devices? As a government that prides itself on red tape reduction initiatives, how can a program with such great potential become so neglected and outdated? Better access to modern, multifunctional and mainstream devices, such as a smartphone, can replace numerous expensive specialized devices that only have one function. Thus, saving taxpayers money in the long run.
We call upon the Assistive Devices Program to take action now and bring together disability stakeholders and industry partners to collaborate on a strategy to refurbish this program to its greatest potential. Ontarians with disabilities depend on this much-needed program to live our lives fully and independently. The time has come for us to create an equitable society for people with disabilities. Let us start by improving our provincial Assistive Devices Program. For more information, visit cnib.ca/revisionADP.
Danica Frappier is a member of CNIB’s National Youth Council.