ODSP means Tough Luck St. Thomas?

$142,000. You can buy a house for that, several vehicles, or one expensive one. It would feed several families for several weeks. It is also enough to make a much needed service move to London, leaving those who rely on it stranded in no mans land. Spend much needed money to travel back and forth to London, rely on relatives, or call by phone. Those are your options folks. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

$142,000 is how much money the Ministry of Community and Social Services will save by upping sticks and leaving a city that desperately needs it’s services. Ironically, the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service came into being on the 1st of January ensuring that all businesses and organizations in Ontario with one or more employees (so if a business has no employees it is exempt?) must be accessible by those with disabilities. What is not covered under this bill is no longer being accessible to those using your service because the office is moving.

As a side note, the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service does not count volunteers, perhaps they are not considered real workers? Only the Ministry knows for sure.

A little more digging around and you discover that there is an actual Facebook page dedicated to Access On (the hip new catch phrase that the Ministry probably spent more than $142,000 on) that seems to have less Likes than Bashar al-Assad. According to the Access On Facebook page (if you keep saying Access On it starts to sound cool), 1 in 7 Ontarians have a disability, which should mean that St. Thomas has just over 5,000 with a disability. The number often quoted is 2,200 clients of the ODSP. 2,200 is less than half of those in St. Thomas who could or should be taking advantage of the ODSP.

Do you know what accessibility looks like? Well if you don’t, and you can’t understand what a picture is, you can go to the Access On You Tube page. There you can watch wonderful videos such as Accessible Customer Service at Hasty Market (58 views) and Accessible Information at the Toronto Reference Library (121 views in 5 months). All videos are professionally produced, probably by a company who specializes in such things, and who probably doesn’t do it for free out of the goodness of their hearts. Oh and incase you are wondering, 92 people have subscribed to the Access On channel. That is four percent of those affected by the ODSP office trying to save money.

$142,000 is how much money the Ministry is going to save but has anyone asked how this money could be saved in other ways and yet keep the office in St. Thomas? Smaller offices, shorter hours, less staff, no coffee machine in the break room (if they have one). What can St. Thomas do to keep the ODSP here in our city? Is there are office somewhere that the owner isn’t using that could be used for a minimal fee until a more permanent solution is found? How many building and stores are empty in St. Thomas? Why can’t one of those be used? It is too easy to point the finger and cry and scream but we need the pillars of St. Thomas to step forward and put their money where their mouth is. Here is a quick solution. The abandoned Wendy’s on Talbot St, opposite MacDonalds. Why can’t that be used instead? Obviously work would have to be done but at least there would be lots of seats for a waiting room. Blockbuster across the street if the Wendy’s building isn’t big enough. For crying out loud, someone has to be able to offer something to help keep this service in St. Thomas.

It is frustrating to see my adopted city falling around our ears. It seems that personal agendas are more important than helping the city and the platitudes being spoken are nothing but hot air. Perhaps now is the time to stop looking elsewhere for help and instead start helping ourselves. Stop looking for handouts that aren’t going to come, the bailouts that will never reach this far south of Toronto, and take charge of our future. Less meetings, more action. Less worrying about how bad something may look and focus on the good that will come out of it. St. Thomas is reaching close to the bottom of the barrel but rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, lets make the most of what we have, a great city, friendly neighbours, a good location, and a statue of a dead elephant. What more could we need?

An interesting website is the ODSP Action Coalition (http://www.odspaction.ca/) for those who are concerned about the loss of the ODSP office.



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One comment

  1. Though I understand your frustration, I think your article is weak and not based on all facts. Just because there may be open space available, doesn’t mean that anyone can let it be used without some implications. There are huge liability and insurance issues as well as health and safety. You may also want to check your facts on the AODA Customer Service Standard – it differs for volunteer organizations and businesses.

    In an economy where most wallets feel a drought, it isn’t much different for those who have empty spaces that you feel they could offer. If they feel it’s necessary to cut $142,000 here, that means they must do it elsewhere too. Would you rather them cut funding to all ODSP recipients or shuffle offices and create inconveniences during transition?

    Stop your complaining and start generating solutions! And by solutions, I mean ones that could actually work, not pie in the sky.