The measure of humanity

Are we mindful of the vulnerable living persons in our life when decisions are made?

Can you live on $1169 a month? Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP) is designed to support disabled persons above 18 years of age. Qualifying for the program depends on medical and financial circumstances, and what is offered (max of $1169 a month) hardly meets basic living needs for most disabled persons. In the past year, advocates of persons with disabilities have publicly shared stories of dire circumstances, with the hope of amplifying awareness for the sake of social change.

Largest minority

Since the arrival of Rachel in 2006 and Janneke in 2009, my girls’ needs have directly impacted all of my decision-making. With regards to voting in the recent provincial election, I tried to be mindful of the most vulnerable person, but it took significant work to learn how each party asking for my vote was also mindful of the most vulnerable. I am increasingly more aware of how hard it is for the disabled to thrive in this country. The disabled are the largest minority in our world, and the numbers in Canada are no different. We might think we are a developed nation, but we have a lot of growing ahead of us.

when it happens to you

Unfortunately, living with a disability compromises opportunity and freedom with finding employment, housing and financial security. Many do not understand this until they experience it. People desire and are drawn to the standard of normal; normal is an assumption deeply embedded into our life and culture. Are we mindful of the vulnerable living persons in our life when decisions are made? Are we listening to all the stories about living with disability – or just the ones that make us feel good?

How a society treats its most vulnerable – whether children, the infirm or the elderly – is always the measure of its humanity.

Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN at the Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, June 2015

Recently, I spoke with a young woman with quadriplegia who told me about the morning her lift system malfunctioned and there was no caregiver or repair person available until the following week. She would have remained in her bed for the week had her father not come to her apartment that day and manually navigated her body out of the bed and into her wheelchair. Her family was able to come to her rescue, but she is keenly aware that others do not have that privilege.

let’s do better

I’m encouraged to see Carla Qualtrough advocate for a new Canada Disability Benefit on the federal level. Hopefully this inspires other change-makers. The city of St. Catharines where we live, led by their accessibility committee, just opened a renovated accessible playground in the heart of downtown, creating a place for everyone to gather – nary a wood chip in sight. I’m hoping to spend a lot of time there with Rachel and Janneke this summer.


  • Sara Pot

    The Pot family story includes a life of caregiving for daughters Rachel and Janneke.

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