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Government Turns It’s Back on Intelectually Disabled Adults

Mom Saves Taxpayers Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Now Government Turns Their Back on Intelectually Disabled Daughter 
By Roseanna Vachon
August 17, 2010

My name is Roseanna Vachon and I have been advocating on behalf of adults with intellectual disabilities.  I understand that you have been made aware of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s (TLDSB) decision to cease bus transportation for our adults.  My daughter, Brandy, has used the bus, post
secondary for over 15 years.  She is one of seven affected individuals.  For many years, I personally made these arrangements directly with TLDSB’s Transportation
Department for this yearly service.   

Daily, Brandy goes to the high school bus stop and catches a ride to the I.E. Weldon High School in Lindsay.  Community Living picks her up there and they coordinate her work/life skills programs: St. Mary’s School Breakfast Program, Aquatorium, Humane Society, Jobs-r-us and life skills learning.  Individuals
in these and similar programs develop personal learning goals that maximize their abilities.  These are vital programs and by discontinuing transportation,
these individuals will not have access to services that give their lives meaning and purpose.  It is a life-long learning process for them.  

It has been confirmed that other School Boards in Ontario assist their rural, intellectually challenged adults by providing them with school bus transportation to their day programs as this is our only transportation option.
 The impact on individuals and families with the coming loss of service will be severe.  It
makes the difference between isolation and loneliness, and safety and full participation in the life of their communities.  Significant contributions to
their communities will also be lost.  The cost savings to the Province as a result of keeping our loved ones living at home and not placing them in alternate care is huge.  We are only asking for the continuation of an existing, established, reliable, safe service.  With the government’s current emphasis on
greening initiatives, and reducing the carbon footprint, it would be sensible to utilize the existing bus transportation system.  This would not only be
cost effective and practical, it would not create further impact to our environment.     

Policy development regarding intellectually challenged people has failed to address rural transportation.  Programmes are not beneficial if individuals cannot access them.  We are not asking that this accommodation be extended province-wide, nor are we asking that the accommodation be offered as a matter
of course for all in the area.  What we are requesting is that current arrangements be kept in place until those currently requiring the service no longer need it.   

I have dealt with my Municipal Councillor, Mayor – Ric McGee, MPP’s – Rick Johnson and Jeff Leal, the Ombudsman’s Office, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Community and Social Services (various departments), numerous Service Agencies/Clubs (including Community Living), Lawyers, Public and Catholic School Administration and Trustees, Newspapers and TV.  To date no resolution has been agreed upon.  The Peterborough Northumberland Clarington Catholic School Board buy transportation services from the Lakelands Board, passed a motion to continue the service, to grandfather in the seven individuals and have agreed
to pay the Public Board any costs.  There is, therefore, no undue hardship to the Public Board to continue to provide this service.  The Public Board,
however, have stood by their discontinuation position effective June 30, 2010.  The content of the Transportation Contract between the two Boards has not been shared and I would suggest that a thorough review be undertaken and that the contract be made available to all involved parties. 

It is my understanding that the Ministry of Education encourages schools to permit communities to use their buildings for after-hours activities.  To allow for this, Boards purchase liability protection.  The same liability agreement could be established for bus transportation.  Insurance premiums, however,
should not increase as our people do not create any liabilities which would not be there to the same extent if the seat were occupied by another child. 

Additionally, bus drivers and students are permitted to bring their pre-school toddlers on the bus.  Liability concerns for these non-students must have been reviewed and the necessary steps taken to protect the Board. 
We only ask for the same consideration.  

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act indicates that a “barrier means anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier,
an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practise.”  To discontinue the existing bus service, in my opinion, would be a contravention to the Act, is discriminatory and may also be a Human Rights Code issue.  There appears to be a lack of harmonization between Acts and the Code.  The Supreme
Court of Canada noted the need to “fine-tune” society so that its structures and assumptions do not exclude persons with disabilities from participation in society.  They also indicate that transportation is fundamental to the achievement of equality for persons with disabilities.  

I have been discussing the larger issue of rural transportation with the Mayor and MPP and have received a copy of the Mayor’s letter that was sent to you requesting changes to the Act.  Unfortunately, the lenghty timelines required to implement such a change don’t address the crisis situation we will find
ourselves in come September.  Brandy has been provided the opportunity for skill development, social skills, customer relations/service, employment skills, self esteem building, and inclusion into her community.  She is very happy with her Lindsay based programme.  The employers she assists have written letters advocating on her behalf.  They don’t want to loose their valuable volunteer.  The Humane Society says “We look forward to seeing her.”  “I can only imagine the joy she brings to the other community organizations that she volunteers with.”  To take away her quality of life, dignity and to put her safety at risk due to a policy/procedure is unconscionable. 

We teach our children about tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion.  The others on the bus learn acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities and learn to understand how they contribute to our community.  The students are very accepting of Brandy because of the positive interactions and relationships that
have been developed over the years.  We as adults need to lead by example and need to support our most vulnerable.  “Our most vulnerable and most challenged
people are already marginalized, and they continue to bear the burden of economic policy reform such as this one.  If the greatness of a society can be measured by how it treats its weakest members, then frankly we are not measuring up these days.”  (Bobcaygeon Promoter)   

Through our elected officials at the Peterborough, Northumberland, Clarington Catholic School Board and through our Mayor and City Councillors, thousands of constituents have spoken in favour of grandfathering in the seven affected individuals for school bus transportation.   

Without resolution to this transportation issue we will be in a crisis situation.  I work in the opposite direction to Lindsay, I’m a single parent and don’t have the financial means to sustain a full time caregiver (as asked by the Chair of the Public Board) nor would I want to deny my daughter the quality
and dignity of life to which she is accustomed and entitled to.   

As summer break is fast approaching and school draws to an end we need to find a resolution.  I, therefore, respectfully request to meet with you either by phone or personally.  I require assistance and do not wish to be directed to any other agencies or individuals.  I need someone to take full ownership
and provide constructive help now.  With regards to a meeting date and time, my contact information is listed below.  Thank you.       
(Info removed)

Could you please encourage individuals to contact: 

Hon. Leona Dombrowsky,
Minister of Education,
22nd Floor, Mowat Block, 900 Bay St.,
Toronto, M7A 1L2

and the Minister responsible for AODA.   

Honourable Madeleine Meilleur,
Minister of Community and Social Services
6th Flr, Hepburn Block, 80, Grosvenor St.,
Toronto, M7A 1E9,