THUNDER BAY – The Ontario government this month announced that recipients of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) could now earn more money from working, without their ODSP support being affected. But for Ontarians with the most severe disabilities, including amputees, it’s status quo amidst the skyrocketing cost of living.
“What the government misses completely is that amputees receiving ODSP simply cannot work – let alone work more – without the artificial arms or legs needed for basic tasks such as walking, dressing or holding objects,” said Brian Forbes, Chairman of The War Amps Executive Committee. “Thanks to outdated funding models from the Ontario government, these crucial artificial limbs are often impossible to afford for ODSP recipients, leaving amputees literally without a leg to stand on.”
Many amputees, and virtually all of those receiving ODSP, face thousands of dollars in debt to get a basic artificial limb. It’s often the case that they must go without, exacerbating health issues and impacting their independence and ability to return to work.
“While Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP) states ‘75 per cent coverage’ for artificial limbs, this coverage is based on outdated prosthetic costs. In reality, ADP covers only about 20 per cent of the cost of an artificial limb for the average Ontarian,” explained Annelise Petlock, Director of Advocacy for The War Amps.
In one recent case, an amputee and ODSP recipient needed a prosthetic hand that could open and close to help her complete activities such as holding a plate, opening doors and other essential tasks. Her prosthesis cost $23,806, and the Ontario government covered less than half. The remaining balance of $13,598 was a burdensome debt, and an impossibility for this individual with her limited ODSP income. The War Amps stepped up to fill the gap for this amputee, but as a charity that relies on public donations, our funds can only go so far.
“For amputees in receipt of ODSP, changing the income cap misses the mark entirely,” said Petlock. “Without adequate funding for the artificial limbs they need, amputees in Ontario will continue to be impacted in their ability to work at all.”
As a first step to alleviate this “double whammy” against amputees, Petlock recommends that ODSP must be increased to at least be on par with other provinces. At a maximum of $1,228 per month, Ontario lags behind Quebec ($1,463), BC ($1,358) and Alberta ($1,685). “Better still, the government must recognize that this amount is well below the poverty line and provide a living wage to all persons with disabilities and increased coverage for artificial limbs – it’s the least we owe to Ontario’s most vulnerable and in need.”