Public Education Issues We at the Action Committee of People with Disabiities are actively involved in public education about issues challenging people with disabilities. Through participation with other community groups and at the different levels of government, people with disabilities are working to remove barriers which prevent full participation and integration to community life. The extent to which a condition is disabling depends upon the social, physical and economic environment. For example, curb cuts and accessible public transit make mobility around the community possible for those using wheelchairs. Appropriate housing design features can make it possible for a person with disabilities to use a kitchen. If you cant reach facets, outlets, work areas, storage or appliances the design of the kitchen limits your independence. When others discriminate against you by assuming you lack abilities and rights due to your disability, is it the disability limiting your opportunity? Many of the housing issues experienced by people with disabilities are challenges held in common with many members of the community. Affordability is one along with the desire for choices in housing to suit ones individual and family needs. Discrimination is another barrier experienced by many members of our community. People living with disabilities have additional challenges and through public education, awareness of these issues and that solutions for these issues will be beneficial for the entire community is growing. If you or a member of your family becomes physically disabled, would your home be accessible? Was your home designed and constructed to be easily and economically adapted? Should a friend or relative become disabled, could they visit your home? We would like to use this forum to educate others about housing issues experienced by people living with disabilities, answer questions and encourage all members of our community to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. For example, make sure the revised City of Victoria Official Community Plan includes strong policies to ensure an accessible community with an adequate supply of affordable and accessible housing. Make certain City Council uses the Municipal Act to increase the number of accessible housing units in new developments. Write to your MLA and request that the Home Adaptations for Seniors Independence Program (HASI) be re-instated and demand that this grant program be available for people with disabilities. This program provided grants for such items as grab bars in washrooms to make homes more livable. Write to your MP and demand that CHMC become involved again in building new social housing. Ask the Federal Government to continue the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, which gives forgivable loans to homeowners and landlords to make homes accessible, and is due to end in December, 1995. These are a few examples of ways all of us can join forces towards the common aim of affordable and accessible housing for everyone in our community. What are some of the public education issues that need to be addressed around the subject of housing and people with disabilities? A person may be disadvantaged in locating housing because of transportation problems: e.g. a person, who, by reason of their disability, cannot drive ore use a bus. Or the person may, because of their disability, not be able to obtain a drivers license. Other individuals may need to rely on attendants, homemakers, guide dogs or service animals. Some individuals who, by reason of their disability, suffer from disorientation or confusion. They may have difficulty following maps or experience orientation problems with directions. These individuals may need assistance in locating housing. A person may be disadvantaged in securing housing because of discrimination barriers from prospective landlords or property managers. This discrimination may be simply due to a lack of knowledge about people with disabilities or assumptions made based on the appearance or symptoms of the disability. Some individuals are discriminated against due to their source of income or poor work history. These kinds of discriminations against prospective tenants because of their disability are against the Human Rights Act and the Residential Tenancy Act. A person may be disadvantaged because of their difficulty functioning in market housing or in retaining their housing. For example, persons who, by reason of their disability, require user-friendly housing which is in good repair and simple to maintain or may need accessible designs due to mobility or agility disabilities. Most people with disabilities need easy access to community resources and accessible transportation. Some people with disabilities are frequently institutionalized or have difficulty in dealing with landlords because of disorientation or communication challenges due to their disabilities. Affordability is a major problem for many people with disabilities who, because of their disability, live in extreme poverty. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is very high. Many have marginal employment, part-time or are unable to maintain full, steady employment due to their disability. The monthly income for those on GAIN for handicapped is $771 of which $325.00 is allocated for shelter. The average market rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in Victoria is $569.00 per month and a 2 bedroom apartment is $724.00 per month. (CHMC April, 1995). There is a shortage of accessible housing units now and this will become a more severe crisis as the numbers of seniors increase. People with disabilities constitute approximately 15% of the CRD population and nearly half of people over 65 have some kind of disabling condition. Only 9% of disabilities are present at birth. The majority of disabilities are due to illnesses, disease and accidents. We all have equal risk of becoming a person with a disability and affordable, accessible and suitable housing is a concern for the whole community.With the support and involvement of the whole community including people with disabilities, we can increase the number of accessible and affordable housing units. As a community, we can become aware of the problem issues experienced by people with disabilities and bring these issues to the attention of others. Ask the manager of your apartment building how many of the apartments are accessible. If you know of any new developments being proposed for your neighborhood, find out whether it will include accessible units. If you belong to any clubs or church groups involved in housing, ask whether the needs of people with disabilities are being considered in future housing projects. If you are or know anyone involved in the housing construction industry consider including accessible units or adaptable designs in planning developments. If you are involved developing a housing project, consider a cooperative project with a non-profit society for including people with disabilities in developing housing. If you are a landlord or have the space for a secondary suite, contact our consultants for an evaluation, information and recommendations for accessibility features and designs.