Province needs a plan to meet the needs of 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities
QUEEN’S PARK — The Official Opposition is calling for the Ford government to make COVID-19 testing available at home for people with disabilities who face barriers trying to travel to testing sites.
"There are 2.6 million Ontarians living with disabilities, yet Doug Ford has not announced any plans to support them during the pandemic — despite the fact that many people with disabilities are among the most susceptible to COVID-19, and often face barriers in accessing testing and treatment," said Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition.
“Access to testing must not discriminate based on ability,” said Joel Harden, NDP critic for Accessibility and People with Disabilities. “If we are truly all in this together, that means making sure every Ontarian who should get a test can get one.”
Harden said that for people like John Mossa, the testing system simply excludes them. Mossa has a mobility disability, and fragile health with limited lung function. When he came down with cold-like symptoms, including a cough, he felt he needed a test — but would have needed a PSW to go along with him to a hospital or assessment centre, and worried about exposing his weak system to transit staff and others along the way. Ultimately, medical professionals advised him not to get a test, because the risks were too great and supports too few.
“People with disabilities, their families, and their caregivers cannot be an afterthought in the government’s response to COVID-19,” said Harden. “We need urgent action to ensure that their needs are met during this pandemic.”
Home-based tests for people with disabilities should be delivered by workers wearing full personal protective equipment, noted Harden.
Horwath and Harden wrote to Doug Ford calling for his government to adopt a plan in consultation with experts and grassroots disability community leaders. The plan should include, but not be limited to:
- Adopting a clinical triage protocol that respects the human rights of people with disabilities
- Ensuring that attendant care workers who help people with disabilities in their own homes have access to personal protective equipment
- Resources and clear guidelines to support 330,000 special education students with e-learning
- Provide remote and distance supports to assist the families of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home
- Declaring the Assistive Devices Program an essential service so that no one is deprived of critical mobility or medical aides