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AEBC writes Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care regarding a Review and Expansion of the province's Assistive Devices Program

May 7, 2018

Hon Dr. Helena Jaczek
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
10th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C4
Via email: hjaczek.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Dear Minister Jaczek:

The provincial Assistive Devices Program has allowed Ontario to be seen as a leading provider of devices, technology-related or otherwise, which enhance daily living for persons with disabilities in Canada. Without this Program, many Ontarians would be unable to afford them. The recent dramatic technological advances should have given rise to regular program reviews and updates, yet the Visual Aids category has not been significantly expanded for nearly twenty years, resulting in the continued distribution of obsolete devices and the inability to obtain much more appropriate and innovative ones.

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is a national organization of Canadians who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted who strive to integrate more fully into all aspects of Canadian society. Access to the latest technology has the potential of playing an integral part in increasing our full participation in all aspects of life. However, it must be accessible, available and affordable.

The Assistive Devices Program has never considered mobile phones or travel aids such as GPS navigation systems worthy of coverage, yet communication and independent mobility are two important aspects of everyday life. Although software such as Kurzweil 1000 and devices such as the Victor Reader line are covered, the modern mobile phone or tablet and the applications (apps) available for those platforms, such as KNFB Reader, are not. These new devices and apps have the ability to truly enhance daily living for people who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted, but they cost money, and too many people with disabilities live below the poverty line due to lack of employment and inadequate social assistance rates. The Assistive Devices Program, if modernized, could significantly improve the lives and prospects of all Ontarians with disabilities, especially those who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted.

As a consumer organization, we believe that the beneficiaries of the Assistive Devices Program should be directly involved in the consultation process leading to a complete review and modernization. In fact, we believe that consumers should be directly involved in consultations leading to and implementation of all programs that affect our lives—“nothing about us without us!” A review and expansion of the Assistive Devices Program is long overdue, and we are eager to play a role in the process.

We therefore request a meeting to discuss the issue with you and look forward to your response.

Yours truly,

Peter Field National President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

Archival Date: 
Friday, June 8, 2018