Dear Western Fair Board of Governors:
I am writing to challenge you to spend a day as a disabled person in this city. Perhaps you could even accompany one as an attendant for a day and document the extra costs this incurs. I am the parent of a child with a non visible disability. She needs help accessing many city programs and, if I am not with her, she requires a person hired by us, a support worker paid to help her take part in programs that other children in London can often easily take part in. In this city there are many places that charge the attending support worker for accompanying a disabled child. Some facilities do not. There is little consistency, in fact, is what I have found. Sadly, this means it costs my family and my child often a lot more than the neighbour’s child, to attend museums, movies and fairs. Some will argue there are funds for families to access from the government – funds that will pay for the support worker. In fact it is my experience many families, like ours, wait for years on waitlists approved for the funding and the service that never materializes. Empty promises for struggling families.
I have been very fortunate to spend this past week doing trainings with parents of children whose various disabilities make everything more challenging in life. Many of the parents must work harder to help their children take part in ordinary things, such as school. They are exhausted physically, mentally and financially by demands placed on them. And yet they rarely complain. Many sell their houses out of financial necessity when they realize they need one parent to quit their career to assume the job as a full-time advocate for their child, a stark reality. I wonder if you consider any of this. Some children are in wheelchairs. Some are not. For some simply getting to school will be a Herculean task. For these parents simply getting a one hour interval to get to the grocery store to buy food means structuring an elaborate support system simply to get out the door. For children like my daughter there will be sporting events and various other programs in this city that simply will never be used again. It is a fact of life that even when we try so hard to attend some of the city’s programs or functions, at private and public facilities, even at schools, they are often ill equipped or too loud, too busy, too small, incapable or unwilling to adapt to meet the needs of a large segment of this society.
You speak of inclusion often in this city and yet when it comes down to it, really and truly, if you spent even a day as the parent of a child with a disability, or the person with special needs you would be dumbfounded at what the world really looks like to many. So when I read this morning of the plans to charge disabled people and their attendants admission to the fair I felt again called to advocate for my child. I have no problem ever paying admission for my child, disabled or not. I get very angry though when I am forced to pay out of our family budget for her support worker to go with her as well. Often that means we pay twice as much as the family next door to attend something in this city. Unfortunately I guess the Western Fair has chosen to be another obstacle for disabled people to overcome in the city of London, not part of the solution, but part of the problem.