Today we celebrate the work of Louis Braille, who at the age of 15 invented a remarkable reading and writing system that changed the lives of blind and partially sighted people. Braille helped them connect with the sighted world and empowered them to more fully participate in it. Increased literacy led to better education, the ability to work and live independently, and achieve one’s full potential. These opportunities continue to benefit us all, through the invaluable contributions that people with disabilities make each and every day in Ontario.
While we’ve made great strides in advocating for and creating a more equitable and accessible province, we also know there’s still a lot of work to do. We should take this opportunity to push those in power for more economic and social opportunities for blind and visually impaired individuals, and raise our voices in protest against policies that will turn back the clock and erase the advances we’ve made.
The Ford government has already clawed back important labour protections that will have a greater impact on employees with disabilities, such as paid emergency leave days, scheduling rights and equal pay for temporary and casual workers. The Ontario government has also proposed changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program that will significantly alter the lives of ODSP recipients, by denying financial help unless they are deemed to be permanently unemployable. That means those with progressive or chronic disabilities who can work some times, but not others, will no longer be able to receive crucial financial assistance.
Half of working-age Canadians with vision loss struggle to make ends meet on $20,000 per year or less and adults with vision loss are 90 per cent more likely to suffer from depression. In Ontario, there are over 6,000 children like Louis Braille who are blind or partially sighted, and approximately 120 diagnoses are made each year. We must stand up and stand against regressive policies that will deprive our most vulnerable from the financial and social assistance they need to lead productive, healthy lives.
On World Braille Day, please join us here at OPSEU in renewing our commitment to advocate for inclusion, accessibility, equality and fairness for all.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, Ontario Public Service Employees Union