The Alberta government should provide better service and more timely supports to people with physical disabilities, says a new advocacy group.
Wheels of Change is calling the Alberta Aids to Daily Living program “inefficient and inhumane.” The non-profit urges the Alberta government to re-prioritize and reform the decade-old program to improve quality of life for those with spinal cord injuries.
Alberta Health’s Aids to Daily Living program is now hampering the lives of those with physical disabilities who are waiting months — or even up to a year — for access to support and equipment, says Steve Crochetiere, director of Wheels of Change.
“Our files are sitting on a desk somewhere, it’s cruel and inhumane…”
Crochetiere adds, “This isn’t about the government spending more money, it’s about updating an archaic system and administering the program in a more timely and efficient manner.”
Dawna Morey, executive-director of The Lending Cupboard, a Red Deer charity that makes short-term equipment loans to people with disabilities, says “We are hearing some of the same concerns from our clients.”
Under the terms of a service agreement the charity has with Alberta Health Services, equipment loans from The Lending Cupboard are only supposed to be for a three-month maximum — clients are supposed to apply to the Alberta Aids to Daily Living program to secure longer-term equipment.
But Morey says some people are waiting so long to get supports through the provincial program that The Lending Cupboard is extending its loans so these clients aren’t left without wheelchairs in the interim.
“We will not remove equipment until they can get it from the Aids to Daily Living,” adds Morey, who welcomes a provincial program review.
Alberta Aids to Daily Living provides an essential service to Albertans with disabilities and chronic illnesses, but the way the program is administered is described as ineffective by Wheels for Change.
Besides long waiting times for equipment, program has inadequate staffing and a cumbersome approval (and sometimes re-approval) process for applicants, says the advocacy group.
Assessments have stopped during COVID-19 because the program refuses to do them online, adds Crochetiere.
“Everyone has a similar story to tell when it comes to AADL — (clients) are waiting too long and they are suffering. We’re asking for the government to take a look at the program and help make it easier for us to move on with a good quality of life,” he adds.
Steve Buick, spokesperson for Alberta Health, said “We’re committed to improving access to publicly funded health services and that includes the equipment and supplies provided by Alberta Aids to Daily Living.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro has asked Alberta Health for a plan to improve access. It will cost more money but these services matter to people, just like surgery and other health care, and the Minister is committed to making this program serve people better, said Buick, who feels there will be more information to release in the coming weeks.