Posts Tagged "group"

31Dec

Group in B.C. looks to build smaller, homelike long-term care units after COVID-19

by admin

The new buildings would incorporate aspects of the so-called Green House model, doing away with large, institutional-type facilities.

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Rows of rooms line a long, narrow hallway where a tall aluminum cart stacked with food trays is parked as staff at the front desk register visitors and offer surgical masks. At the other end, a large TV from the 1980s is being removed from the building, which could itself be replaced if a rezoning plan is approved.

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The nearly 60-year-old Inglewood Care Centre, home to 230 residents, would be bulldozed, along with its hospital-like setting, as part of a “household of 12” model of private rooms based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Russell, administrator of the home, said between 43 and 51 people live on each floor of the centre. But a rezoning application expected to go before the District of West Vancouver in April calls for a pair of buildings to accommodate two units, or households, of a dozen residents per floor.

“The big thing is you won’t have that large group dynamic,” he said, passing a dining room, the type that would no longer exist as a mass gathering place in the new home where members of the same household would eat meals together.

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Baptist Housing, a non-profit provider of seniors housing with 21 homes around B.C., bought Inglewood in February 2020 with an aim to redevelop it in line with trends toward fewer residents per unit.

However, the pandemic forced the organization to reduce the number of people in each household from 23 to 12 in order to slash the incidence of COVID-19 or other infectious illnesses like seasonal influenza in keeping with guidelines set by health authorities in B.C.

The Health Ministry said design guidelines call for 12 to 18 people per unit, with a washroom in each person’s living space. Operators of owned and contracted homes may accommodate two people in a room for fewer than five per cent of residents if there’s a plan to transfer them to separate rooms on request.

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Inglewood largely escaped the ravages of the pandemic and had no deaths.

CP-Web. Inglewood Care Centre resident Janet Baxter, 82, uses her computer in her room at the long-term care home in West Vancouver, on Thursday, December 16, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a rethink of how long-term care facilities are designed to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases that can easily spread in crowded quarters, isolating residents and closing them off from family visitors.
CP-Web. Inglewood Care Centre resident Janet Baxter, 82, uses her computer in her room at the long-term care home in West Vancouver, on Thursday, December 16, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a rethink of how long-term care facilities are designed to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases that can easily spread in crowded quarters, isolating residents and closing them off from family visitors. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Over 15,000 people have died during the pandemic in care homes across the country, the highest proportion among all 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Marc Kinna, CEO of Baptist Housing, said Inglewood’s expansion would include some independent and supportive housing options for seniors, along with affordable accommodation for staff, the vast majority of whom commute from outside the West Vancouver area.

The new buildings would incorporate aspects of the so-called Green House model in the United States, where a homelike environment for a lower number of residents does away with large, institutional-type facilities.

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“The value of a household of 12 isn’t new. What’s new is that places that employed a household of 12 model had much less spread of COVID-19 than places that had communities of 20, 30, 40 residents sharing a space,” Kinna said.

“Not only did it have socialization benefits and the quality-of-life benefits to go through a pandemic, you also realized that it has extreme value in terms of saving people’s lives and providing for better protection against COVID or other diseases that might be yet to come.”

As part of the proposal, families could safely access Inglewood during an outbreak by taking an elevator to a loved one’s floor, where a visitation room with a Plexiglas wall would help reduce the risk of infection.

A separate entrance and exit for staff and a room for putting on and removing personal protective equipment is also part of the 12-person model, which Kinna said won’t be any more expensive for residents, who pay about 80 per cent of their annual income for long-term care.

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Baptist Housing would negotiate a new agreement with Vancouver Coastal Health to help pay for the increased cost of the new building. The budget for the entire project is estimated at $583 million, with an expected contribution of about $15.5 million from BC Housing and $13 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Pat Armstrong, a distinguished professor emeritus of sociology at York University in Toronto, joined international teams to tour long-term homes in Norway, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada between 2016 and 2018. Their one-week visits to at least two homes in each country were part of a 10-year study that was completed in 2020.

“The Swedish and Norwegian people were especially shocked to see our big units,” Armstrong said of researchers from countries where eight to 12 seniors typically live in a long-term care unit, compared with B.C. and Ontario, for example, where up to 32 people are housed together in most homes.

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There are no Green House models in Canada, but some aspects have been implemented in parts of the country, including at one known as Eden Home in Halifax and another dubbed the Butterfly Home in Ontario’s Peel Region, she said.

CP-Web. Inglewood Care Centre resident Terry Clarke, left, who likes to dress up as Santa during the holiday season, is helped by recreational therapist Alison Netherwood as he walks to a table to read a book and have coffee at the long-term care home, in West Vancouver, on Thursday, December 16, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a rethink of how long-term care facilities are designed to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases that can easily spread in crowded quarters, isolating residents and closing them off from family visitors.
CP-Web. Inglewood Care Centre resident Terry Clarke, left, who likes to dress up as Santa during the holiday season, is helped by recreational therapist Alison Netherwood as he walks to a table to read a book and have coffee at the long-term care home, in West Vancouver, on Thursday, December 16, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a rethink of how long-term care facilities are designed to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases that can easily spread in crowded quarters, isolating residents and closing them off from family visitors. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Consistency in staffing is a major benefit for both staff and residents in the smaller homes where employees are offered full-time jobs while many of their counterparts elsewhere have part-time hours and work at multiple locations.

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto, said that besides appropriate staffing, smaller living quarters need adequate government funding, beyond the traditional formula for the current, higher number of residents per unit.

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The pandemic has shown that the Green House approach led to a significantly lower risk of COVID-19 transmission, that staff felt better supported and family involvement was valued, he said.

“They tend to deliver superior care, pandemic or no pandemic,” said Sinha, who is also director of health policy research at the National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University in Toronto.

He said that with baby boomers turning 85 within a decade, Canada will face an unprecedented demand for long-term care, so the work to reshape the system can’t wait.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to establish national long-term care standards and Armstrong, who is on a committee to develop them, said public consultations were expected to begin early next year.

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“All provinces, territories and the federal government must work together and say, ‘Enough is enough, that this was so deeply horrific that we can never let this happen again,”‘ Sinha said of the number of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes.

“While some incremental things have happened, I really am hoping that ultimately, given the fact that out of respect to the 15,000-plus Canadians who died, we will try to honour their legacy by getting it right for those who are left behind and for those who one day might actually need to be living in a long-term care home.”


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28Dec

Victoria group aims to build wagon-inspired shelters for homeless

by admin

“Unhoused people are handcuffed to their belongings. They can’t really get things done. Most people don’t understand what a barrier that is to improving your life. You can’t just leave your sleeping bag and tent unattended.” — Krista Loughton

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VICTORIA — Krista Loughton is one step closer to her dream of providing inexpensive shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

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Loughton is part of a group called the Community Alliance for Sheltering Alternatives that is hoping to build “Conestoga” huts — named for Conestoga wagons that carried pioneers across the U.S. to the western states — for the unhoused in Greater Victoria.

By Monday, the group’s fundraising campaign had raised $5,300 — more than enough to build a prototype of the round-roofed hut. “We want to show people that it works,” Loughton said.

The huts are warmer and more substantial than a tent and have been used in cities in the U.S., including Eugene, Oregon, where about 200 huts are providing temporary shelter.

Each hut has 60 square feet of living space and a door that locks.

“It gives them a home base where they can protect their belongings,” Loughton said. “Unhoused people are handcuffed to their belongings. They can’t really get things done. Most people don’t understand what a barrier that is to improving your life. You can’t just leave your sleeping bag and tent unattended.”

Although it has the money, the biggest challenge facing the group is finding a location for the first hut, said Loughton.

Because it’s a community initiative, the huts have to go on private property.

Loughton said the ideal spot is a church parking lot. “My dream is to have one on every church parking lot in the Capital Regional District.”

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The first Conestoga hut will be built for a homeless man and his dog, Lulu, who have been sleeping rough on Government Street despite snow and sub-zero temperatures.

The team is asking private citizens, businesses and churches for help. They are looking for property owners willing to host a single hut for a predetermined amount of time, preferably at a location with a public washroom nearby. They are also looking for groups of four volunteers to work as “settlement support teams” to help connect people to services.

The idea is to start small with one hut to shelter one person and build on that, Loughton said.

“The great hope is that we would do another one, and another one, and another one, and very quickly we’d get this done,” she said. “We’d pull in volunteers.”

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On Salt Spring Island, ­members of the Wagon Wheel Housing Society, a grassroots organization committed to ending poverty, hunger, homelessness and isolation, built a Conestoga hut as a pilot project to show they could safely isolate the homeless during the pandemic.

The hut was on display in the parking lot of Country Grocer in the summer of 2020 and was later moved to private property to provide housing for a farmhand, who pays $50 a month to the society.

“We can build more,” said Cherie Geauvreau of the housing society.

“It’s a wonderful thing. You’re safe and warm and dry and wake up happy. You’ve got a locking door and a ventilating window, a built-in bed and storage space and you can have your dog in there.”

A Conestoga hut built on Salt Spring Island by Kylie Coates, member of the Wagon Wheel Housing Society. Photo: Kylie Coates
A Conestoga hut built on Salt Spring Island by Kylie Coates, member of the Wagon Wheel Housing Society. Photo: Kylie Coates Photo by Kyle Coates /PNG

Victoria businessman Rob Reid, owner of Frontrunners Victoria and New Balance Victoria and a member of the group supporting the Greater Victoria initiative, said amid a cold winter, vulnerable individuals deserve a dry, secure place to live.

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“It’s time we start talking about the crisis and do something about it,” he said.

Fellow CASA member Calen McNeil, co-owner of Zambri’s and Big Wheel Burger, said the Conestoga huts are a proven model that has worked in other cities.

“I fully support building a prototype Conestoga hut that can be used to inspire a new model of shelter to address the crisis of homelessness across the region,” McNeil said.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the Community Alliance for Sheltering ­Alternatives program can email ­casagreatervictoria@gmail.com.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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1Dec

COVID-19 update for Dec. 1: 358 new cases, no deaths | Omicron variant detected in B.C. | Skiers’ group pushes for vaccination proof to ride gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb | Air travelers to U.S. likely to face tougher testing

by admin

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Dec. 1, 2021.

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We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.

Check back here for more updates throughout the day. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on Nov. 30:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 218,426 (2,889 active)
• New cases since Nov. 29: 358
• Total deaths: 2,333 (no additional deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 300
• Intensive care: 104
• Total vaccinations: 4,225,218 received first dose; 4,069,988 second doses
• Recovered from acute infection: 213,053
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 5

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IN-DEPTH:   Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus in 2021 | in 2020


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: B.C.’s vaccine passport is here and this is how it works

COVID-19: Here’s how to get your vaccination shot in B.C.

COVID-19: Look up your neighbourhood in our interactive map of case and vaccination rates in B.C.

COVID-19: Afraid of needles? Here’s how to overcome your fear and get vaccinated

COVID-19: Five things to know about the P1 variant spreading in B.C.

COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.

Skiers’ group pushes for vaccination proof to ride gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb

Nick Green has been skiing at Whistler Blackcomb since it opened 41 years ago, but this year his enthusiasm has been dampened by concern that unvaccinated people could be riding with him on the gondolas.

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“It’s like Russian roulette because you don’t know the vaccination status of the nine other people in the gondola with you,” said Green.

The 70 year-old cancer survivor is part of a “Load Safe Whistler” group behind a 12,000 name petition, calling on the provincial health officer to order proof of vaccination to ride in the five gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb.

“Packing 10 strangers into an enclosed gondola for a minimum 25 minute ride is the very definition of an enclosed space, so it’s totally mysterious to me why Dr. Bonnie Henry won’t protect us,” he said.

Henry, the provincial health officer, told reporters on Tuesday it is not her job to micromanage businesses.

“As with many specific businesses, I think that is not my role,” she said. “My role is to advise different businesses on how to do their business safely and I would encourage people who ski at Whistler to make their views known to Vail, who makes those decisions.”

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—Lisa Cordasco

358 new cases, no deaths reported Tuesday

B.C. recorded 358 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, but no new deaths.

The number of active cases in the province rose just slightly, to 2,889.

Of the new cases, 107 were in Fraser Health, 85 in Interior Health, 57 in Island Health, 56 in Northern Health and 53 in Vancouver Coastal Health.

There are 300 people in hospital with COVID-19, of whom 104 are in intensive care.

The number of health-care facilities with active outbreaks has dropped to just five after the one at Abbotsford Regional Hospital was declared over.

One case of Omicron identified in B.C.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant of concern in B.C.

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Henry said the case was found in Fraser Health from someone who had recently returned from Nigeria.

The person was among 204 people who have been identified as having recently returned from the southern part of Africa. Henry said all these people were self-isolating. She said the Omicron variant was likely not widespread in the province.

Henry added that while it’s not confirmed whether the Omicron variant – which surfaced globally last week – is more contagious or dangerous.

She said all COVID-19 layers of protection have to be used, particularly masks.

In the lead up to key religious services people attending churches, including choirs, must now wear a mask during services. Readers can remove their masks while speaking.

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Air travelers to U.S. likely to face tougher COVID-19 testing

The Biden administration is likely to impose stricter COVID-19 testing rules for air travelers entering the United States amid concerns about a new COVID-19 variant, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.

A draft proposal is circulating among government agencies, officials said, that would require all air passengers arriving from other countries to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure from their point of origin.

Currently, vaccinated international air travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days. Nearly all foreign nationals must be vaccinated to enter the United States. Unvaccinated travelers must get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of arrival.

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The administration is also considering whether to require air travelers to get another COVID-19 test within three to five days after arrival in the United States, officials said.

The stricter rules could be announced Thursday, but it was not clear when they might take effect.

—Reuters

Germany moves toward mandatory COVID-19 shots as Europe clamps down

Germany took a step closer toward making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory as the incoming chancellor threw his support behind the move, part of a tougher line by European leaders as the pandemic spirals out of control.

Olaf Scholz called for a parliamentary vote on the step before the end of the year, saying on Tuesday that he would allow lawmakers to make the decision.

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“My recommendation is that we don’t do this as a government, because it’s an issue of conscience,” he said on Tuesday in an online interview with the Bild newspaper.

Scholz and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel met with state premiers to discuss the country’s outbreak. While the measure wasn’t approved at the talks, there’s a growing consensus across the political spectrum that shots will have to be required.

—Bloomberg News

As Omicron plays havoc with markets, shares of vaccine makers surge

The emergence of a worrisome coronavirus variant is benefiting shares of vaccine makers Moderna Inc, BioNTech and Pfizer as investors search for winning bets in markets roiled by uncertainty in recent days.

Moderna shares have jumped 28% since last week when the variant, named Omicron, triggered global alarm. Shares of vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNtech have also climbed over that time, with Pfizer up 6% and U.S. shares of BioNTech jumping 15%, in contrast to a decline in the S&P 500 of 2.5%.

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Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are the predominant vaccines used in the United States, and it is expected they will be able to re-engineer their products to address the new variant if required.

“They are clear COVID plays and anything that ramps up the intensity of COVID is going to benefit them,” said Kevin Kedra, pharmaceuticals analyst at GAMCO Investors. “They are the front line of defense against COVID.”

Along with the rise in vaccine stocks, the market reactions to the new variant included a sell-off in travel and leisure stocks and brief increases in stay-at-home stocks that thrived during lockdowns in 2020.

—Reuters


B.C. MAP OF WEEKLY COVID CASE COUNTS, VACCINATION RATES

Find out how your neighbourhood is doing in the battle against COVID-19 with the latest number of new cases, positivity rates, and vaccination rates:

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B.C. VACCINE TRACKER



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

–with files from The Canadian Press

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Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

8Sep

Allow vaccine passport exemptions or face legal challenge, group warns B.C. government

by admin

VANCOUVER —
A Calgary-based legal foundation has threatened to take the B.C. government to court if officials refuse to allow medical and religious exemptions to the province’s COVID-19 vaccine passport system.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation, which previously supported a failed legal challenge of the province’s public health-care system, announced this week that it’s preparing litigation on behalf of individuals who will be temporarily excluded from non-essential activities such as dining in restaurants and going to the gym when the passport system takes effect later this month.

In an open letter sent to B.C. Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Attorney General David Eby on Tuesday, the group described the impact the system will have on unvaccinated individuals as “unwarranted and extreme.”

“The vaccine passport policy prevents people who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or reasons of religion or conscience from participating in public life,” it reads. “A failure to create an exemption or accommodation for these individuals is a violation of their Section 15 Charter-protected right not to be discriminated against on the basis of disability or religion.”

The foundation, which is a registered charity in Canada and named as a partner of the U.S.-based Atlas Network, which supports hundreds of right-leaning think tanks around the world, also suggested the government should exempt everyone with a non-religious but “sincerely held” belief that prevents them from getting the vaccine.

It’s unclear how a passport system would function if those individuals were to exempted as well.

Christine Van Geyn, the group’s litigation director, told CTV News the foundation hasn’t decided what relief it will be seeking from the courts, and might request that the passport system be struck down entirely.

If the litigation does go forward, she said the CCF will likely be focusing on medical exemptions.

“Our preference is not to litigate. We would like to see the government make accommodations to people,” Van Geyn added, pointing to medical exemptions already being promised in other provinces. “If Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia can do it, why can’t B.C.?”

B.C. health officials have previously said there will be no exemptions to the proof-of-vaccination requirement, which is being phased in on Sept. 13 and expected to remain in place until the end of January. Officials hope that COVID-19 transmission, which surged over the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across Canada, will be under control by then.

“This is a temporary measure that’s getting us through a risky period where we know people who are unvaccinated are at a greater risk, both of contracting and spreading this virus,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last month.

“Those rare people who have a medical reason why they can’t be immunized … they will not be able to attend those events during this period.”

While unveiling the details of the government’s plan on Tuesday, Henry stressed that grocery stores and essential services will remain available to everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated for any reason.

She also noted there will be some options for those who are temporarily impacted, such as ordering takeout from restaurants instead of dining in.

4Jun

Halifax research group creates app to help break barriers for those living with disabilities

by admin

A research group in Halifax is trying to make the city more inclusive to residents and visitors.

PEACH Research works to promote equity, accessibility and health in urban design and planning practices. It’s part of Dalhousie University’s school of planning and consists of faculty members, students and partners developing and executing projects to help design a better place for Haligonians to live, work and play.

One of those partners is Halifax-based non-profit reachAbility. It provides support and accessible programs to individuals facing barriers to inclusion and community participation. Each year, it hosts National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) to celebrate and recognize contributions made by people living with disabilities.

“Everyone in Nova Scotia and in Canada will have had, has or will have a disability,” says Tova Sherman, CEO and co-founder of reachAbility.

“Let’s find a reason to celebrate inclusion and the incredible things that people with disabilities achieve every single day in their workplace, in their lives, with their families and with their children.”

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Read more:
Halifax-based non-profit goes digital for week-long conference on accessibility and inclusion

During NAAW, the two groups hosted a virtual event on how to build a more accessible city. CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment was hosted by Melanie Goodridge, pre-employment support navigator for reachAbility, and PEACH researchers Kate Clarke and Katherine Deturbide. The panel covered accessibility standards and barriers faced in the built environment, and highlighted their latest app, the CANdid Access web map.

The app allows users to share and access photos and information about the accessibility in their community.

“Take a picture of something that’s accessible/inaccessible,” Goodridge explains. “Then you give a little blurb on why and then it’s uploaded and put onto a map.”

The photos and information submitted by users of CANdid are added to the access map and can help those living with disabilities to navigate – or even avoid – certain parts of the city. Unmarked crosswalks, paved park pathways, construction zones and sidewalk conditions are some examples of what users may find on CANdid.

“It’s just a really great way to show features that are accessible versus features that are inaccessible,” says Goodridge. “You get a visual of how we can make it better and how we can change to meet the standards by 2030 of the Accessibility Act for Nova Scotia.”

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The Accessibility Act, passed in 2017, plans to improve standards for public buildings, streets, sidewalks, shared spaces and education. The standards are expected to roll out in 2022.

Read more:
Nova Scotia announces plans to support accessibility law passed in 2017

The hope is that the information collected through CANdid will one day land on the desks of provincial government officials who can make a difference.

“Nova Scotia does have some big targets to reach by 2030,” says Goodridge. “A lot of the work that the folks are doing at PEACH Research is a great way to start and an easy way for all of us to understand and digest what needs to happen so that moving forward, we can engage in our government, we can engage on a local level to see those changes being made.”

NAAW runs from May 30 to June 5. It is free and open to everyone and is available to access any time through the reachAbility website.  CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment is available to watch through the reachAbility YouTube channel.




© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

5Feb

Opinion: A co-ordinated group of family, friends and allies key to keeping disabled safe

by admin


Florence Girard, 54, was found dead in a private home on Oct. 13, 2018. An RCMP probe alleged that the victim didn’t receive the necessities of life, such as food, shelter, medical attention and protection from harm, Coquitlam Mounties said in a statement Jan. 29, 2020.


PNG

The news of Florence Girard’s tragic death and subsequent charges against her caregivers reminds us that family, friends and neighbours have a critical and irreplaceable role in keeping disabled people safe. While the courts deal with the RCMP charges let’s not make the mistake of relying solely on formal accountability mechanisms. Instead let’s ensure a network of supportive relationships is in place for every vulnerable person in care so that no one ever has to die alone and unnoticed again.

Our comments aren’t wishful thinking. We write this as co-founders and leaders of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN.) We have more than three decades of experience developing support networks for disabled people in B.C. and around the world. One of us has a daughter who, like Girard, has Down syndrome. Research studies back up what we’ve learned. When disabled people have a network of supportive relationships they’re safer, healthier, require less paid services, have a higher quality of life, and their risk of abuse and neglect is dramatically reduced.

Caring networks create safeguards. We aren’t referring to an occasional volunteer visit, but to an intentional and co-ordinated group of family, friends and allies. Network members are companions, watchdogs and advocates. They serve as trustees. They monitor guardianship arrangements. They assist with health care, banking and everyday decisions. Because they’re in a committed, continuing relationship with the disabled person, they know when something is wrong, they spot changes to the person’s health and temperament, and motivated by love they take action to make things better.

The outcry for more formal safeguards is understandable but misplaced. Compare the difference in coverage. An occasional monitoring visit by a government agency combined with a once-every-three-years formal certification process versus a network of friends that is always checking in, visiting regularly and sharing updates with each other.

There are many ways to establish a stable network that lasts. PLAN’s approach is to hire a community connector who works closely with the individual. When there is no family nearby, network members come from neighbours, service clubs, faith groups and people who share similar interests. In our experience most people welcome the opportunity to join with others in a caring network.

We have witnessed network members identify changes in a person’s mental health, detect tumours and arrange for medical care that was missed by service providers. They have found jobs and volunteer opportunities. They have taken up the slack when aging parents or family members weren’t available. They have protected people from being exploited and abused. They have made sure they have suitable clothing and nutritional food. And they have helped people with a terminal illness die in peace and love.

Sadly, most disabled people in care don’t have caring networks. It’s time for the B.C. government to make these relational safeguards a fundamental ingredient of our service-delivery apparatus. Not as a “nice-to-have.” Not as part of another study or investigation. But as essential in keeping people safe as all the formal safeguards combined.

We recommend the B.C. government:

1. Mandate the funding body Community Living B.C. (CLBC) to ensure relational safeguards exist for every one of their clients. This will take a modest investment of money in community groups who aren’t service providers but nowhere as much as implementing yet another system of monitors monitoring monitors, monitoring contracted agencies.

2. Require all relevant government and service-provider agencies to take courses in relational safeguards. This orientation is just as important as safety and health certificates or criminal record checks.

3. Appoint a vice-president of relational safeguards at CLBC. Unless there is a senior position with power and resources nothing will change.

4. Document the difference. The added benefit of relational safeguards is that it results in happier lives for disabled people and reduced program costs. Use the data and any savings as the basis for improving supports for British Columbians with a disability.

We can’t think of a better way to honour Girard’s memory.

Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski received the Order of Canada for their work with disabled people and their families. They co-authored Safe and Secure — Seven Steps to a Good Life for People with Disabilities. Rebecca Pauls is executive director of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network.

28Apr

Visually impaired youth face 70% unemployment — and this group wants to change that

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Not many people notice that Duncan Simmons has a vision impairment. 

Simmons, 19, can see relatively well during the day. But when it’s dark, he’s virtually blind.

“At nighttime it’s like I’m walking around with sunglasses on. Everything is really dark,” Simmons said. 

He was one of two dozen young adults who gathered Sunday at Fighting Blindness Canada’s Young Leaders Summit in Vancouver. The event aims to help blind youth overcome hurdles finding work in a market dominated by screens.

Facing stigma

Canadians with vision impairments face 70 per cent unemployment rates.  

Event co-chair Patrick Losier, 27, said it can be tricky for visually impaired youth to determine the appropriate time to disclose their disability to a potential employer. 

“There’s a stigma with people with vision loss that they’re not capable of certain things,” said Losier, who has low vision and light sensitivity. 

Once job candidates have disclosed, they then have to ask for accommodation, Losier said, and figure out when they need to ask for help. 

Public perception

Blind paralympian Donovan Tildesley was the event’s keynote speaker.

Tildesley says blind and vision-impaired youth need to stay positive and advocate for themselves.

Blind paralympian Donovan Tildesley says visually impaired youth can be an asset in the workplace. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

“I think the challenge with vision impairment is public perception,” he said. “Employers don’t know what a blind or visually impaired person needs, or how to make things accessible.”

Tildesley says people who are blind or visually impaired are used to overcoming challenges and can be an asset to any workplace. 


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12Nov

Civil liberties group calls out federal government over appeal of solitary confinement ruling

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A civil liberties group is calling out the federal government for a perceived double standard, questioning how it can appeal a ruling against solitary confinement while at the same time saying it is trying to end the controversial practice. 

In the B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver on Tuesday, Ottawa will attempt to overturn a B.C. Supreme Court decision from January that found isolating inmates for an indefinite amount of time was unconstitutional.

It comes a month after Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled legislation to end the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons.

“If you say that you’re going to eliminate solitary confinement and the very same day you give instructions to your lawyers to preserve solitary confinement and fight against the ruling that found it unconstitutional … it makes absolutely no sense,” said Josh Paterson, executive director the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the respondent fighting to uphold the original ruling.

“When solitary confinement is indefinite, as it can be in federal prisons, some people are held for months, sometimes years in rooms that are no bigger than someone’s small washroom, the court said that is unconstitutional,” Paterson told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

“There has to be a time limit and there has to be independent oversight over people who are being placed in these conditions.”

Josh Paterson, with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, says the new legislation doesn’t include a required cap on how long an inmate may be isolated for. (Don Marce)

‘A new coat of paint and a new name’

According to Goodale’s bill, a new system called Structured Intervention Units (SIU) would be implemented to house inmates that are a danger to others or are in danger themselves.

While in the units, inmates would be permitted to leave their cells for four hours a day, as well as have access to mental health care and other programs.

But there is no cap on how long a prisoner can be kept in an SIU — a requirement of the B.C. Supreme Court ruling.

“As it is now, guards make lots of arbitrary decisions in relation to prisoners. We don’t have any reason to trust that in a new system, with a new coat of paint and a new name, that prisoners won’t have these opportunities taken away from them arbitrarily and that’s why there needs to be [independent] oversight,” said Paterson.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says his tabled legislation on solitary confinement looks to address the needs of the most vulnerable in federal prisons. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A statement from Goodale’s office says the government is committed to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in the federal corrections system.

“[The proposed bill] will eliminate segregation and establish a fundamentally different system focused on rehabilitative programming and treatment. This new approach will allow us to maintain separation when necessary to maintain safety, and at the same time allow programming and human contact.”

The statement adds that the government is appealing the ruling in order to to seek judicial clarity on the issue.

Law discriminates against mentally ill: ruling

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling by Justice Peter Leask found that the law surrounding administrative segregation jeopardizes prisoner and staff safety and discriminates against mentally ill prisoners.

“I am satisfied the law … fails to respond to the actual capacities and needs of mentally ill inmates and instead imposes burdens in a manner that has the effect of reinforcing, perpetuating or exacerbating their disadvantage,” Leask wrote.

He added that under the existing rules a warden becomes judge and jury in terms of deciding how long to keep an inmate isolated.

The appeal hearing is expected to last for two days.

Listen to the full interview below:

The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn speaks with Josh Paterson about his teams’ efforts to defend the Supreme Court of B.C.’s ruling that indefinite solitary confinement is unconstitutional. 7:40

With files from Jason Proctor


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29Sep

Surrey anti-crime group alleges absentee-ballot election fraud scheme

by admin





Sukhi Sandhu, an organizer with Wake Up Surrey, said his group was informed of a voter-fraud scheme ahead of the Oct. 20 municipal elections. Surrey RCMP have been notified.



Sukhi Sandhu / Facebook

A Surrey anti-crime group has filed complaints of an alleged election-fraud scheme targeting South Asian voters in the city which sought to increase the number of absentee ballots cast this election more than 30-fold.

In letters addressed to the Surrey RCMP and to Elections B.C., Wake Up Surrey alleges there has been a “well-coordinated election fraud scheme underway within the South Asian community” ahead of the Oct. 20 municipal elections.

The groups claims that absentee ballots are being fraudulently used and votes are being bought.

Wake Up Surrey believes that one or more political parties are behind the scheme, which involves requesting absentee ballots for voters and casting them without their knowledge, or obtaining absentee ballots from voters and either filling them in for them and forging their signatures, or telling them how to vote.

The group claims the political party (or parties) orchestrating the scheme are also paying voters to cast a vote for a specific candidate.

Sukhi Sandhu, an organizer with Wake Up Surrey, said his group was informed of the scheme by people who had been told by employers and business owners to each collect detailed personal information from 25 people in order to obtain their mail-in ballots.

Sandhu said 600 “poll captains” were asked to make the lists of 25 voters, so that an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 mail-in ballots could be cast for a single candidate, he added.

It would be a drastic increase over the number of mail-in ballots usually cast.

In order to vote by mail, a Surrey resident has to complete an application (available online) and mail, fax or deliver it in person to city hall.

They must make a declaration they have a physical disability, illness or injury that affects their ability to vote, or expect to be absent from Surrey on Oct. 20 and during advance voting. Their ballot is then mailed to them or they can pick it up at city hall.

Voter data from the 2014 municipal election shows that just 459 special-voting (mail-in) ballots were cast. It is unclear how many of the ballots have been requested to date.

Spokesman Oliver Lum said the City of Surrey is aware of the allegations and its chief electoral officer will be commenting further on Monday.

Sandhu said some of the people who were approached about casting absentee ballots will be filing complaints with police in the coming days. A Surrey RCMP spokesman not briefed on details of the allegations couldn’t confirm before deadline Saturday whether an investigation had been launched, but Global News and News 1130 reported the detachment has opened a case.

Sandhu said Wake Up Surrey has identified at least one political campaign linked to the scheme but said he would leave it to the RCMP to confirm that campaign’s identity. His group is not endorsing any candidate or party in the election, he said.

“Immediately when it came to our attention, we looked at the evidence and found that it was credible,” Sandhu said. “We felt a moral duty as Canadian citizens to phone the police and the chief electoral officer.”

Sandhu said his group and South Asian media have been intimidated and slandered by powerful groups who oppose their calls to expose and fight corruption, and said some are motivated by financial reasons to influence the election.

“This is not only voter suppression but it is also disrespecting voters in our community, thinking of them as illiterate,” he said.

Sandhu is a well-connected businessman and longtime community activist in Surrey regarded as a backroom player by politicians hoping to get support among South Asian voters. He worked on Dianne Watts’s recent bid for the B.C. Liberals leadership but left her campaign after he claimed she was not connecting with B.C.’s South Asian community.

Four parties running candidates in Surrey have issued news releases condemning the alleged voter fraud and supporting Wake Up Surrey’s effort to expose it, including Safe Surrey Coalition, Integrity Now, People First and Proudly Surrey.

But People First also criticized Wake Up Surrey’s release of the allegations to media, which the party believes will “help the culprits to hide their tracks,” and which “casts a shadow of doubt and shame on the South Asian community,” its news release said.

Proudly Surrey candidate Pauline Greaves is calling for an immediate suspension of all mail-in voting.

— With files from Mike Smyth

neagland@postmedia.com

twitter.com/nickeagland


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26Oct

Drivers abusing disabled parking permits: group

by admin

The City of Richmond is tweaking its bylaws in an attempt to stop able-bodied drivers from using disabled parking permits to save money.

The city currently allows anyone with a permit to park for free at city meters, but the Richmond Centre for Disability says that privilege is being abused all too often.

“We’ve got a lot of complaints from general community members when they witness someone using a parking permit but they don’t look [to have] any disability,” the centre’s executive director Ella Huang told CTV News.

“We find that this free parking privilege is a big driver for [able-bodied] people to take their car and park there for the whole day.”

The city is now moving to scrap the free parking privilege altogether, except for drivers whose disability makes them unable to physically reach the meters. They’ll be given a special decal for their car that will exempt them from paying.

Motorists like Dina McInnes, who drives a van equipped to load and unload her wheelchair, said Richmond also has a problem with able-bodied drivers parking in designated handicapped spots.

“Something needs to happen. It really does make a difference if people misuse them” McInnes said. “If I don’t find a spot that’s wide enough for my van with a side lift to get in, I can’t get out of a car.”

The new bylaw is expected to take effect in a few months.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jina You

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