For the past four decades (since 1977), the Disability Alliance of British Columbia has been helping individuals diagnosed with disabilities. When people think of the word “disability” or “disabled,” a person in a wheelchair with a visible illness often comes to mind. However, being disabled has vast meaning, as disabilities come in many different forms. There are the physical/visible disabilities that can temporarily or permanently impact a person’s mobility – such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis), cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, autism, epilepsy, and spinal cord injuries, just to name a few. However, there are also certain invisible illnesses that can be classified as disabilities, too. An invisible illness is when someone is unable to visually see the disability and there are no supports (such as a wheelchairs, canes, or sign language) to indicate an individual may have a disability. Because of this, there is a stigma attached to invisible illnesses that make some people believe that if a person looks capable, then they are capable. However, this is not true. Examples of invisible illnesses that are considered disabilities can include chronic pain (such as fibromyalgia, pain due to injury, chronic headaches/migraines, bone disease, and more), chronic dizziness, chronic fatigue, diabetes, learning disabilities, and even mental illness (i.e. depression.)
Whatever your disability, DABC doesn’t discriminate and is ready and willing to help anyone who may need it, offering a wide-range of in-office, community, and online resources.
One of the biggest hurdles that someone with a newly diagnosed disability may face is applying for disability assistance. In order to be eligible to receive disability assistance/benefits, you must be able to show that you meet the financial eligibility to receive disability assistance, be at least 18 years of age, have a severe physical or mental impairment that is expected to continue for more than 2 years, have significant restrictions in your ability to perform your daily-living activities (i.e. preparing meals, doing everyday chores), personal care (such as dressing, taking care of personal finances, taking medications, and attending appointments), and require assistance with those activities from another person, assistive device, or an assistance animal. In order to apply for disability assistance, you must request an application. That application must then be filled out by your physician. It can be a time-consuming process, and one that sometimes has to be repeated due to the denial of an application…something that can commonly occur if any part of the form is filled out incorrectly; which is why, to help individuals with the application process, Disability Alliance BC came up with the Advocacy Access Program. Through this program, DABC helps individuals with both the application and appeal process. Their advocates will not only help you and your physician in the completion of the application form, but will also assist you in gathering any necessary information that may be needed to support your application. In addition, the Advocacy Access Program also helps individuals apply for other benefits, such as health supplements, PPMB (Persons with Persistent and Multiple Barriers to Employment), CPP-D (Canada Pension Plan Disability), RDSP (Registered Disability Savings Plan), and even filing taxes.
DABC also offers a wide range of programs for individuals. The Community and Residents Mentors Association – also known as CARMA – was created to help individuals transition from care facilities to establishing their lives in their community. Through this transition, individuals will learn how to plan goals and know where to turn to in the event that they are in need of additional support. Another program offered by DABC is the Right Fit Pilot Project – also known as RFPP. The Right Fit Pilot Project is used to address the challenges that individuals often face when it comes to finding affordable, wheelchair-accessible homes. These challenges include limited availability of accessible and affordable housing due to high demand/low turnover rates, as well as the length of time it takes to arrange for special equipment and support to be provided to disabled individuals once placed in a new home. To be eligible for the first phase of the Right Fit Pilot Project, individuals must be between the ages of 19 and 64, already be receiving or approved for PWD (Persons With Disabilities) benefits, be living in the Vancouver Coastal or Fraser Health regions, and require wheelchair-accessible housing. In addition to these programs, DABC also offers online videos and help sheets, which include emergency preparedness tips and what to do in the event that you become the victim of a crime.