Anonymous

Please share what you would like people to know about your experience accessing or relying on the Disability Assistance Benefit.

There isn’t enough money to make it though the month. Very hard to live on $2300 per month. We pay $1500 in rent and there’s not enough money to make it. If it wasn’t for child tax benefit we wouldn’t be able to eat.

The government needs to give more money to people on disability. Because food prices are high.

Anonymous

Please share what you would like people to know about your experience accessing or relying on the Disability Assistance Benefit. 

It’s not enough money to survive. Also if you’re working, you can’t make enough money to survive legally. I have to do sex work to pay for my medical marijuana because it’s the only medication that works and it’s not covered. I can’t claim my sex work income for taxes or I will be cut off disability and lose my housing.

I can’t afford to move out of social housing because disability doesn’t give me enough to pay for a decent apartment and take care of my expenses. I have lived in the same SRO for 4 years. I have no hot water. I can’t find housing I can afford unless it’s social housing. I’m sick of being sober and being surrounded by drug users.

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

I wish people with disabilities would be able to work as much as their disability permits with no income cap. I wish we were given enough money to pay for basics like food and medicine. I wish we were given enough money to last a month, not just a week and a bit. I wish we were given more money for housing, not just $375. I wish all medications including medical marijuana were free.

Daniel

Digital painting of Daniel, a young man with brown skin, short dark hair, and beard stubble smiling at the viewer. He wears a white hoodie. His shoulders and head are pictured. The background is decorative with red, orange and pink blocks and dots.
Daniel

Please share something about yourself, your experience with the disability benefit, and anything else you would like people to know.

My name is Daniel and I am interested in building domino buildings, art, and I am located in Vancouver. And also I have travelled to different countries in the past. I used to have job in the extras in the movies as well. I also like reading, and the one thing is also that even though I may be limited to do certain things I have made friends from the programs I go to.

My experience is that I have gone to the programs provided and made some new friends and I have used the benefit to save up the cash for things I really need, and it has helped me for when I need it.

I would like to say that for me, I believe for certain things I need more money, such as groceries, payments and enough for myself. And that for transportation it would be a great boost if I had more, and that for medication as well because I would need the cash for extra in case it ran out to soon. My quality of life is actually a little bit affected because I may not have all the necessary stuff for my day to day life. I have not had trouble accessing the benefit at all, and my experience with the government has so far been alright. Another thing is that for a certain accounts it is a maybe for family members contributing monthly to an account to help with expenses and other stuff and that for the programs if they need money it would be a big help for that.  (family could help pay for expenses)

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

I think that for me the support for people with disabilities could be more money monthly and programs so that it could make it easier for people to enjoy them and use the cash and make new friends.

Likes and loves:

The one thing would be that my interest with dominoes has been going on for 9 years, and I like to draw buildings for the art. I would say colours such as red and white.

Jenn

Digital painting of Jenn. She is looking away from the camera with a thoughtful expression and her hands resting on her lap.. She has long black her falling past her shoulders and is wearing a cream and yellow striped button-up  shirt with a dark blue unbuttoned cardigan overtop and brown pants.. The background is a brown yellow and green striped design.
Jenn

Can you please share about yourself, your experience with the disability benefit and anything else you would like people to know?

I live in Victoria BC, I have a deep love for anything creative (photography, painting, music, crafts). I recently started working once a week at a consignment shop. I have an invisible disability. There’s many people I interact with who don’t see the manifestation of my illness.Though it is invisible, it is no less debilitating. I mourn the loss of my autonomy.

I was definitely extremely lucky. I had my mom and the disability resource centre to support me and help me get on disability. The process was extremely frustrating and took six months, but I was fortunate enough to get accepted with my first application (which rarely happens). Money is extremely tight. They give you $375 a month for rent, which is absurd, and if any family member gives you ‘consistent annual payments’ you can get kicked off disability. So the only real option is renting from your parents (which I’m lucky to have) but the idea of independence is laughable.

I would not have access to my medication, psychiatrist and any other forms of treatment I get if it weren’t for my parents. Even with healthcare, it doesn’t cover any of the more ‘outside the norm’ treatments. Which if you have a disability, are usually the ones you need.

Just because I don’t ‘look’ disabled doesn’t mean that I’m not disabled. Because my issues are invisible, I have to constantly explain myself. It’s scary because if I don’t ‘act’ disabled enough, I might not get the help I need from the people around me. It’s hard when you want some autonomy, so you try and hide your disability, but in doing so you condemn yourself to seeming too able-bodied to need help.

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

Healthcare that encompasses more than MSP. Having all our medications / treatments / needed assistance be covered. Disability paying enough to have independence. Easier access to PWD.

Likes / loves:

I love neutral colours (brown, camel, burnt orange, mustard yellow). I love animals, sneaky ones in particular (cats, foxes, snakes). I love plants (I have tons of house plants), anything outdoor or in nature. I love the sea, it’s my home.

Check out Jenn’s photography on Instagram at @paperlemon

Jennifer

Digital painting of Jennifer. She is smiling and has straight brown hair that falls above her shoulders. She is wearing a pink shirt that falls of her right shoulder. The background is light blue with lighter blue clamshells all over.
Jennifer

Please share something about yourself, your experience with the disability benefit, and anything else you would like people to know.

I am 46 years old with four crushed disks. Two in my back and two in my neck. I have been diagnosed with Sarcoidosis Onset Emphysema, Asthma clusters of granulomas in my lung, benign breathing lumps, and a tumor on the spine of my neck. OCD, Post traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and depression.

My mental health makes it hard for me to live with others because of PTSD, anxiety and OCD. I get stressed out easily and I have panic attacks, but I have no choice. I rent a one bedroom for $850 a month, plus hydro is $200 a month, and that’s my cheque pretty much gone. So I have to sleep in my living room with a bad back because I have to rent my room out just to afford internet, cable, phone and some food, which never lasts all month.

The food in my town is a 2 week wait so when I actually run out of food there isn’t anywhere to get any. Not only that, I can’t afford insurance or a car and with my lungs I can’t walk. I live out of town because its cheaper than in town, but I can’t get to town for things because there is no bus where I live. So, I have pay cabs or neighbors to get anywhere which I can’t afford either. I have no quality of life I’m laid up in bed most days in pain watching TV, which I’d probably be crazy if I didn’t have it. I’m constantly begging people for food money, and my family doesn’t even like talking to me anymore because I am always in need of a ride, food or money to pay bills I can’t afford. $375 is just not enough money for rent or to survive. Disability rates are way below poverty level, and there is 3 million people in Canada living in poverty, and I don’t understand why we give 17 billion dollars to other countries to fight their poverty when Canada doesn’t take care of there own. I feel like nobody cares that we sit here suffering, and it’s even worse now with Covid and my lung issues. I need to stay safe. I can’t afford masks

If everyone is wondering why there is so many tent cities and crime, its because people like me are being put into the street because we can’t afford to pay rent on our own. I think it is a basic human right to have a roof over my head.

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

 Just to afford rent bills food and have some kind of stress relief. We have enough problems with our disabilities, we shouldn’t have to worry about that stuff too!

Likes and loves:

Chihuahuas, pink, blue, beaches, shells and butterflies.

AJ

Digital painting of A.J.. She is Caucasian, with wavy, gray hair that falls at her shoulders. She is smiling while resting her right hand on a black table. The table has a tablet on it. She is wearing an open dark purple long sleeve cardigan and a light purple shirt underneath. The background is an abstract purple design.
A.J.

Please share about yourself, your experience with the disability assistance benefit, and anything else you would like people to know.

I live in West Vancouver, in a co-op, with subsidized rent. Thank god. I’m deaf and I have Cerebral Palsy and a rare genetic disease. Thankfully this disease is manageable by limiting protein. But I need to eat more often to maintain my energy level. I’m a mixed media artist painter. I love riding my trike! This is my life saver. I can’t afford physio therapy or massage therapy. I think I need the physio daily, but at 75$ a pop… too much. Plus, I’d love it if naturopathy was allowed as an option for good health.

Do you have enough money for basic needs, quality of life, independence, other needs like medical care, mobility aids, assistive technology?

None. I have to save my money to buy my own clothes and shoes. My absolute basic need of shelter and, internet and food is met, but nothing else. Everything else I have to save up for. The bus, I have the concession pass that I chose because I don’t ride the skytrain often. I’m very independent, within my means. Mobility aids, the government chooses for me, no options. I have an iPad that is generously provided by an organization that helps with communication.

I find the government is very strict with their form that must be filled out in full, every month. Some questions are downright humiliating, like is there a warrant out for my arrest. I had always wondered why they demand to know each and every single possible income I have – found out, so they can claw it all. I try to work as an artist. I recently had to re submit my information in order to keep my business. The person was demanding without friendliness. Said I must fill out a new form and submit a new business plan. This created stress. The government is a bully sometimes and it is a cold system with tiny compartments. Each compartment has no idea what every other compartment does. Really frustrating to deal with.

I live in fear with the disability amount. This is because the government keeps us poor on purpose. It’s legislated poverty. It’s allowed because that’s what society thinks of pwd. The Nazis did a fantastic job of dehumanizing pwd. I think because of that, we pwd are constantly degraded or put down and discriminated against. I bet people will just shrug their shoulders and say, “ that’s just how it is. Can’t change it.” Oh and why does the disability amount end at age 65? Our disabilities don’t magically disappear. But we do. This is because the money gets changed to federal money, the old age supplement, guaranteed income supplement and CPP all don’t equal the amount the province pays. I don’t look forward to turning 65 when I will live on even less. Because I’m a woman, even less. When I worked for Revenue Canada, I was shocked that older women receive $2000 for the year. I’m sure that increased since, but oh my god. So discrimination happens from cradle to grave.

Because I’ve been on the disability all my adult life , I don’t know what it’s like to be independent of the behemoth the government is. So I don’t know how my quality of life is. I know it could be better. Because of the Coronavirus, my life has come to a grinding halt.

I have to go without needed physio therapy because I just don’t have the money. Plus the government cut how many times they allow it. It used to be once a month, then it became ten times a year. I need it weekly or daily. I also need massage therapy. I go without these. I do my home exercises, but these need updating.

Living on disability is heartbreaking. I see my peers go on wonderful vacations around the world. I am stuck at home, forced to be content with being an armchair tourist. It’s embarrassing to say no to events that cost a lot. Why are things out of reach for pwd?

I’m always confused when I hear a person with a newly acquired disability complain. I myself am tempted to say, “that’s how it is.” Society needs to accept pwd as equal. That would be a start.

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

I believe everyone is equal. End elitism, stop talking down to pwd. No more brushing us aside and pitying us. Stop seeing us as a liability and a loss of dollars. We are assets and resources .

I’m sure there’s more..

Likes and Loves:

I love purple. There’s not enough purple in the world. I love riding my adult trike. I miss my two cats, Panther and Rumbles. Both were gorgeous black cats. I like horses and dogs. I enjoy taking pictures when I ride my trike. Sometimes if the weather is decent, I will bring my sketchbook with watercolours and / or my chalk pastels. I often visit the library to drop off and pick up DVDs. I also like unicorns and the winged horse, Pegasus. I’m spiritual but can’t stand religion and it’s small mindedness. I enjoy meditation. I love moss. If I earn my own money, enough, I will move to a place and build furniture with moss. I think that would be super comfy. Grass is ho hum. I don’t lead and I don’t follow.

See A.J.’s art at www.handsandpurrs.ca , her Instagram account, or Facebook page.

Natasha

Natasha is sitting in her wheelchair and smiles at the viewer. She is caucasian with orange shoulder length hair, wears glasses, a hearing aid, and is a "little person." She has a tattoo of a wheelchair symbol with flames at the wheels.
Natasha

Please share about yourself, your experience with the disability assistance benefit, and anything else you would like people to know.

My name is Natasha, and I am a 26 year old female who lives in North Delta with my parents and my younger sister.  I became a paraplegic ten years ago and have Morquio Syndrome (a rare genetic disability that affects my bones and growth (I am a little person)).  I became a paraplegic as a result of a spinal stroke during a neck surgery that I had the September of 2010.  This stroke resulted in me not being able to use my legs any more.

Now that I am a young adult I would like to move out of my parent’s house, but am unable to afford my own place – never mind the cost of having a live in support person.  I find this to be my biggest obstacle as living at home with my parents, both of who are very supportive of things I would like to do, I am fortunate to not have to pay for everything like I would have to do if I was living by myself.  I have heard from other people who get the Disability Assistance from the BC government that it is not enough per month to live a comfortable life.  One of the many additional aspects that comes along with having a disability, whether that be physical or mental/intellectual, is having to pay for extra items such as appointments, various therapies or medical equipment (lifts, medicine, catheters, etc.).  These ‘extra’ costs can add up over time resulting in a person potentially not having enough money for food, transportation, clothing etc. 

The way the Disability Assistance is currently set up at the moment, recipients of this assistance have to fill out a form at the end of every month.  The form asks, among other questions: 1) are you still need of this assistance; 2) is there any warrant out for you; and 3) your monthly income or other forms of money you have coming in.  These three questions I find to be offensive questions.  Specifically, the question about income and money makes it sound like people who have a disability can’t hold on to a good paying job and are not capable of earning extra money.  Never mind the yearly cap on how much additional money those with disabilities is able to earn (this cap is currently (as of October 24, 2020) set at $1200.00). By asking if we are still in need of assistance it is almost presuming that disabilities disappear after a certain time.  The majority of people who receive the disability assistance payments have some form of disability that does not disappear over time so asking if you still need the assistance is morally wrong!  I feel the same way about asking if there is a warrant out for your arrest. Does this question even need to be asked?

One thing that I would like people to know is that just because I am in a wheelchair and use a wheelchair to get around, does not mean I need to be treated any differently than a regular able bodied person.  I can still do the majority of the same things an able bodied person can I might just have to do them differently or it might take me longer to do something an able bodied person can do.  Growing up my parents were the kind that if I wanted to do something they would help me do it and by doing this helped me to realize that even though I have a physical disability I should not let that prevent me from doing what I want to. 

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

In my ideal world, people with disabilities would have as much support available to them as needed.  This would also not include any of the existing paperwork or other long process that people, such as myself, that have disabilities have to go through in order to access the current support services.  

Likes and Loves:

The TV show Supernatural (just finished airing its 15th and final season), the colour purple, cats, reading books (really enjoy the romance and SCI-fi/fantasy genres), crafts, watching TV and Netflix.

Anonymous

People with disabilities have also been invited to share their stories online only, in addition to the artwork component of the project.

Please share what you would like people to know about your experience accessing or relying on the Disability Assistance Benefit. : 

This has been a real struggle. I can not afford my prescriptions for my osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and/or PTSD. My food money pays for my phone, wifi and hydro.

A year ago on a Saturday evening walking home from Superstore, I broke my fibula and fractured my ankle in 3 places and was prescribed an air cast. The air cast must be pre approved by BC Disability so, I had to wait until Monday to apply for this. Wednesday I received a call saying the cast is approved, but it takes 5 to 7 days for the supplier to receive the money. (I was now on day 4 without cast and told it would be at least another week). I asked if there was any other options. The worker suggested if I paid for the cast right away, I could go to the medical supply store and claim a refund when disability paid the store. I had received next month’s living allowance this day so, went to the supplier and bought the cast with the money for my pad rental.

On Friday the disability worker called me again saying the store received the money and she talked to the store, the bookkeeper will be in on Tuesday for me to collect my cash.

Tuesday morning my friend drove me down to collect my money. Pad rent is now due. When I went into the store the woman that fitted and sold me the cast and another woman was there. They informed me the bookkeeper is away for an unknown period of time because her brother passed away. There is no possible way for me to be refunded.

As you can see, this really messed me up.

I then applied for a crisis grant to pay my rent but was denied. Disabiliy claimed if I had not purchased the cast, I could have paid my rent.

Disability only works for their employees. Those of us that need assistance need to sell the little we have left and buy tents. According to many already homeless. Buying several different size tents to put inside each other will provide a bit of insulatuon factor needed in winter months.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know? : 

It is only going to get much worse. The government studies are only to create jobs. Once those studies are paid for, there is nothing left for improvements.

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

Reasonable shelter, food and medical.

Interviews

On this page people share their experiences living with a disability, and with the Disability Assistance Benefit, in BC. Some things to know:

Disability rates depend on family size, parental and marital status. A single person is eligible for $1183.42 in 2020. $375 of that is designated as a shelter/housing allowance. A year’s income at this rate is $14,201. The poverty rate for BC is approximately $20,000 for a single person and $40,000 for a family of four.

A single person can earn or receive $12,000 a year without it impacting their disability assistance.

Many people do not qualify for the Disability Assistance Benefit on their first application.

PWD: can mean “person with a disability” or “people with disabilities.” It is also used to refer to the disability benefit or “Persons with Disability” benefit.