Government needs to focus on increasing opportunities for people with disabilities

Three months ago the B.C. government started a public consultation process to garner feedback about increasing accessibility and decreasing barriers for people living with disabilities.

March 11 marked the completion of the consultation process and while the government has not yet released the results, the consultation process has gathered thousands of comments and suggestions, both online and during the in-person sessions that took place in many cities.

The Richmond session took place on Feb. 11 and while Ella Huang, executive director of the Richmond Centre for Disability, believes that such a process is a good start, she worries that the government is trying to do too much too quickly.

“I think the idea was good, to have public consultation on disability issues and getting input from the people [with disabilities] themselves is always good but I think that the process was a little bit rushed. It was a bit too ambitious to cover so much.”

Huang hopes that the government will address what she believes is the main issue plaguing people with disabilities; a lack of financial support.

“Disability benefits haven’t been increased in many years and the cost of living keeps increasing so for a lot of people just having their disability benefits is not enough.”

But even those people who are able to work face challenges in getting into the workforce.

“Employment can be a very effective tool for people to be more independent,” says Huang, but she adds that the government isn’t doing enough to provide specialized support for people with disabilities, from pre-employment skills development to on the job support.

But she thinks that perhaps the most important thing that the government can do is “work with employers so that people with disabilities are given real equal opportunities, not just calling in people with disabilities for the interview” but providing the tools for people to excel at their jobs.

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