Alliance Seeks Input From People With Disabilities, Families About Accessibility



From left, Jeff Sparks (Muscular Dystrophy Canada), Kara Reid (occupational therapist), Alex Peeler (Muscular Dystrophy Canada) and Tracy Ryan (Muscular Dystrophy Canadas director of mission) took part in Thursdays discussions hosted by the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada.

SAINT JOHN Alex Peeler recently started a petition that made its way to the House of Commons.

The 24-year-old man from Bridgewater, N.S., wants to help implement a national assistance program for Canadians with disabilities so they have access equipment and services needed to live independently. Peeler said the petition included 1,600 signatures and was sponsored by Bernadette Jordan, MP for Southshore-St. Margarets.

Peeler, a volunteer with Muscular Dystrophy Canada, is waiting to hear back from Ottawa in hopes the petition can be added to the Canadians with Disabilities Act.

The best-case scenario would be that they respond and that its something theyll look into and consider, Peeler said about the proposed legislation.Hopefully they start exploring their options on how they can implement something like that. It feels good knowing that Im helping to make a difference and contributing to something Ive wanted the government to do for a long time. Its good to know that Im part of that change.

Peeler was in Saint John Thursday for discussions initiated by the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada. Members of the alliance are consulting with people with disabilities, their families and other stakeholders about accessibility priorities.

Peeler was also scheduled to attend Thursday nights public input session on improving accessibility. His special area of interest is helping youth with disabilities.

This (discussion) is important for the youth to have their say in how they can improve accessibility and give feedback on some of the new policies that could be included in the Canadians with Disabilities Act, Peeler said. The government is working on improving accessibility for all Canadians.

Tracy Ryan, Muscular Dystrophy Canadas director of mission, agreed youth concerns must be heard.

We want youth to identify themselves what the gaps and barriers are from their perspective, she said. We want to hear from them directly. As service providers, we may think we know what the gaps are, but we need to hear from the youth themselves on what kind of supports they need to be successful.

Saint Johns Jeff Sparks, who also works with Muscular Dystrophy Canada, said many issues impacting youth include caregiving, access to funding for post-secondary education and finding employment. He added that there are several priority issues outside of the federal jurisdiction that need to be considered.

We hear a lot of feedback that the federal government needs to somehow find overarching legislation that will reach beyond federal jurisdiction that will apply to provinces and municipalities, Sparks said. A lot of our issues here in New Brunswick are around matters of provincial jurisdiction, (such as) housing, transportation and education. Were looking to try to find a way to have this legislation cover a broad spectrum.

Kara Reid, an occupational therapist at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton, is pleased the government is seeking public input, especially from youth.

Its a voice thats not often heard in terms of what services are needed federally to help people live meaningful lives, she said. Im hopeful that in the future, the areas affecting individuals with disability that are mandated under the provinces will also be brought into this discussion. I think theres a need to continue to search for more youth opinion and more youth voices.

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