By Kevin Woodhouse
For West Island residents living with limited mobility issues due to old age, illness or injury, services can be hard to come by and resources scarce. Most handicapped people live below the poverty line, relying on welfare to cover services like rent, food and medication on about $1,000 a month.
And while the two local CLSCs have services for handicapped citizens, Dorval resident Rosalyn Williams-Ness, who has Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, likes the CLSC services when she can get them.
“More than half of the services for people like me have been cut and if you are not on a waiting list for a service, you are told that they cannot help you,” Williams-Ness told The Suburban.
Williams-Ness lives in a strange Catch 22 because if she gets a job, her remaining government services will be cut and any job she could get due to her disability does not provide enough hours or pay to live on. She has to live alone even though she needs help for many common activities. Recently, Williams-Ness fell in her bathroom and could not right herself, remaining on the floor for hours before finally getting to a phone at 4 a.m.
“I rely on help wherever I can get it but with all of the government’s cuts, I may have to go back to assisted living,” said Williams-Ness who finds it ironic since assisted living costs the government a lot more than providing adequate home care.
Williams-Ness is an only child and her surviving parent, her father lives in Toronto and is not an active presence in her life. “We need the government to relax the rules on people with limited mobility,” Williams-Ness said. “Allow us to live together without penalty and stop saying you cannot help as your health cuts affect the most vulnerable.”
One agency where Williams-Ness has found help is through West Island Citizen Advocacy who provides volunteers with a number of handicapped and senior West Island citizens who need help with shopping, medical appointments or just to break the isolation of living alone.
“Many of our clients with mobility issues need help with food preparation or cleaning,” said Marla Newhook of WICA. “If someone needs to alter their bathroom so it can be modified for their wheelchair, who will install it for them let alone pay for it?”
Newhook expects WICA to have to pick up even more slack once the provincial government makes its cuts to the health sector as a way to lower Quebec’s ever growing debt. “We need to be providing more resources so that people with mobility issues can be as autonomous as possible.”
“There are not enough services readily available for those who need them,” said Ronald Davidson of the Quebec Society for Disabled Children. “Waiting lists can be as long as 18 months for children of special needs to get services and there needs to be more resources for the public otherwise families have to resort to the private sector which can be very costly.”
Despite the fact that she might not be able to stay in her own apartment, Williams-Ness is an optimist. She is a member of one of WICA’s advisory boards and looks forward to the day when Quebec handicapped residents will get enough funding to allow them to live as independently as possible.
“If I can help out in anyway by raising money or awareness, I’ll be out trying to do it,” said Williams-Ness.
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