A Victoria disabled rights advocate is accusing the provincial government of not following the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities after officials refused to fully fund a specialized wheelchair.
Steven Palmer said despite receiving a doctor’s prescription for a rigid wheelchair, the B.C. government won’t permit spending more than $1,500 on a wheelchair. A rigid wheelchair costs about $5,000.
Rigid wheelchairs provide greater mobility and flexibility for people with physical disabilities, as compared to electric or manual wheelchairs.
“It would make my life so much easier,” Palmer said. “It’s a safer option for maneuvering on the street and when travelling.”
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed by Canada in March 2010. Under Section 20, the convention requires signing nations to give disabled people the option, with their doctor, to decide what they need, not based on what government is willing to pay.
Palmer said the federal government has failed to implement the international treaty by requiring provinces to comply with the provisions.
“The convention is a very serious document,” said Palmer, an advocate with the Disabled Rights Alliance, who has lived with polio for more than 60 years.
“The very fact they’ve gotten away with this for so many years and still refuse to acknowledge they are in violation of the convention is disturbing.”
Palmer has received the backing of Victoria MP Murray Rankin and Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming who have called on the federal and provincial governments to properly fund the wheelchair request. So far, no response has been received.
“It’s going to make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives because if we can set a precedent here, and establish the fact the provincial government is obligated to provide this type of equipment, then it’s going to be easier for other people to get the equipment too,” Palmer said.
A spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation said the ministry’s poicies are consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
According to Article 20,
“Parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by:
a.) facilitating the personal mobility of persons with disabilities in the manner and at the time of their choice, and at affordable cost.