Digital painting of Matthew's face and shoulders. Matthew is a middle aged Cuacasian man with dark hair. He is wearing a bucket hat and hoodie in shades of navy blue, as well as glasses, and is smiling at the viewer. The background is decorative in reds and pinks.
Please share about yourself, your experience with the Disability Assistance Benefit, and anything else you would like people to know.

I’m located in downtown Victoria, living in a 2 bedroom apartment with a wonderful lady who also has a disability and became my wife (even though my family disapproved and refused to attend the wedding). My initial disability is Epilepsy, but it got treated with Brain Surgery which stopped the seizures, enabling me to get a driver’s license. In 2010, I acquired a new disability. . . dropfoot in my left leg, but I can still drive. I just had to give up things that require two legs that work properly.

Before I turned legal age, my Parents and my Doctors all made the decision that I belong in a Care Home for people with Disabilities. Being under legal age at the time, they didn’t need my consent for any of it. I even got sterilized (so that I’m unable to be a dad) as my parents agreed with the doctors that’s what’s best for me. I got classed Unemployable and got put on Disability Income the moment I turned 18. When I graduated High School (1982) I got placed in the Long Term Care Home everyone had decided was best for me. The care home knew how much I was getting, so they made sure to charge me that exact amount in Rent, leaving me with nothing. Each time the cheques went up a bit, residents were notified that the cost of rent is going up a bit too.

 At age 24, I had my first of two Brain Surgeries, which reduced my seizures from 3 or 4 a day down to weekly, then monthly. Since I took a lot of Cooking Classes in School and worked in the School Cafeteria, I got moved to a Group Home where each Resident had a turn at preparing the meals for a whole week, then it was someone else’s turn. Two years later, I was free of seizures and took Driving Lessons without my Parents knowing. Two more years went by and I took an Independent living Program that would get me living in an apartment on my own, once again without my Family knowing. 

They were not happy as they had gone through lots of work to get me into that Care Home, and wanted me to stay there for the rest of my life, just in case something bad happens to me. I joined a Church and met a man who had a basement suite for rent. He let me have it for half the amount I get on Disability Income, so I could use the other half for food, a phone line, hydro, etc. 

Life went well until I got hit my another vehicle from behind, and pushed out into traffic.  Both of my legs and arms were broken and had metal plates put in, and a few chunks of my spine had to be put back in place and wired together. But I lost the use of my left leg from the knee down and it didn’t return. So I was starting over with another disability, but this time requiring mobility aids like knee braces, a back brace, a wheelchair, a walker, crutches, and poles installed inside my apartment. 

Unfortunately I did not get an Insurance payment from the accident in money, because I’m on Disability, or the Government would have seized it. Instead, ICBC will cover the cost of any Medical Services that a Doctor says I need. They paid for a power wheelchair, a homecare worker to treat my wounds, and physiotherapy.

During that time of healing I met a wonderful lady on a dating site. A year later, we decided to try living together! I found an apartment building where the Landlord let me have an apartment for less because I’m on Disability Income. At Christmas, in front of everybody at Christmas Dinner, I asked my girlfriend to marry me, and she accepted! 

My wife also has medical problems and PWD status, so our disability payments were combined, raising the amount we get to feed two mouths, not just one. We have each other and that’s all we really need, although it would be nice to have some friends to hang out with. People who don’t judge us on our financial status, and don’t try and convince us to buy expensive clothes if we want to fit in.

Financial hardship is a big challenge, so much that I look online for surveys that pay people to participate.  I tried a number of websites that promise you’ll get paid for every survey completed, but there’s always a catch to it… after spending half an hour answering loads of questions, it asks where I’m from, and when I give my address, it tells me I don’t qualify.

But the biggest challenge is when I was called in to have my Disability income case updated, and they’re now cutting my monthly cheques down.  All because of my wife’s former husband, who has now retired.  I don’t know how it works, but even though she’s married to me, she gets a portion of his retirement money ($500) and the Government is deducting that from our disability income, dollar for dollar.

Having $300 on top due to COVID helped, but it still makes it hard to pay rent and bills, then divide up the rest by four weeks to see how much we can spend on food this month.  Before this big reduction, we were getting by with just under $80 a week.  Now it’s HALF that!  On TOP of that, the COVID is now being cut in half to $150 per month, and then March is the Last One!

Looks like we’ll have to go back to the Mustard Seed Food Bank, or the Salvation Army for Food.  In the Summer, there are programs where Farmers donate their produce, creating grocery bags with an assortment of fresh produce, handed out to people in need.  But like I said, that’s only in the Summer (July, August, September).

As for medical costs, I try to avoid seeing my Doctor as much as possible, as he’ll prescribe something that is not covered, costing me about $50 or $60.  Avoiding things like that helps to save money and store it in a secret spot at my place.  Every month when a new deposit is made (Disability Income) I withdraw what was left before the deposit and add it to the box.  Usually it’s under $20.

I used to participate in the Special Olympics, but had to quit that, as the prices for each sport kept going up, and then there were uniforms and sports equipment of your own that you had to purchase to be on that team.  For example, to go curling you need a team shirt, team jacket, team track pants, curling shoes, and a curling broom.  There are so many things I would like to do again, but it costs too much now!

Instead, I enjoyed using the recreation pass to go swimming for free, or go use a fitness gym, but none of that’s available now.

Every once in a while, my Mom will give us some money for activities she knows I enjoy like a pass to the museum, or tourist attractions if I go and visit her enough.  My Dad died two years ago, and she’s lonely (understandable).  She’s afraid of giving us any more, because she doesn’t want us to get in trouble and have more money taken off our Disability Income.  She prefers to support us by getting us things we really need, like a new pair of shoes.  

As for the apartment we’re in, I moved in here in 2010, and by getting such a good deal, I wouldn’t be surprised if we stayed here for another ten years. Out of pure interest, I’ve looked at other apartment rentals online, and they’re so expensive!  my Rent is $1250, but so many places downtown are $2000 and up!

I keep looking online for Jobs, but they all want fully trained and licensed people with many years of experience.  Even volunteers need certain talents or skills (example: able to type 50 words per minute).  So I look at places that help people find jobs, only to find out there’s an age limit of 18 to 35.  I’m 58 and never had a real job except working in a gift shop 2 years ago, but only 1 day a week (Sundays) so the owner could go to Church.  But my wheelchair got in the way of customers, so I got replaced.

I’m sorry how each paragraph always ends on a bad note.  Sure, I wish I could do something, or have something, but I’m forced to return to reality…. I can’t, and I have to accept it.  I can’t afford food sometimes, and I have to accept it.  I tried going to “Our Place” downtown for a free dinner, and had my back pack stolen off the back of my wheelchair, just by waiting in line. 

I think being “Low Income” has changed me into a Boring Individual, for instead of going places or doing things  simply because others are doing it, I have to look at the price tags, and ask myself if I really need that, because everything I pay for, takes a meal or two out of my kitchen.  Thank God for Kraft Dinner!

I really hope this extra $300 does NOT stop.  I’ve seen lots of sites where people are saying we need it to continue, but I have doubts on whether the government cares.

What do you dream support for people with disabilities could look like?

 Public Awareness and Support around Employment. You can’t just tell people with Disabilities to get a Job, if you’re not willing to hire one!

Before my accident, I did a lot of performing on stage in a Men’s Barbershop Quartet which was lots of fun. But after the car accident that put me in a wheelchair for a long time, I got replaced. I ended up being the Full Time Director of a Men’s Choir, and I loved it! 

I just wish this was a paid Job! Being on Disability, you’re allowed to earn a certain amount on top of your monthly cheque, but the hardest part is finding someone willing to hire a person with a disability! I’ve applied to many places, and they’ve all told me things like… “We want to Draw Customers IN… Not Drive them AWAY!!!” (branch of Starbucks)

Take the Challenge…. Go into ANY large shopping mall, and see if you can find ONE store that has hired someone with a disability to work there! You’d think shopping malls would be the perfect place for people in wheelchairs as the stores don’t have doors to open, or stairs to climb. But store owners still prefer to hire Young Skinny Good Looking Ladies.

Ask every Store Owner if they have someone with a Disability in their company, and if they don’t, ask them why!

Likes / Loves:

Bright Flouresent Colors, Tie Dye Shirts, The old Boston Pops Music, Boating, Golf + Curling as they’re non violent sports (no body checking)

Published by rozmaclean

B.C. based artist

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