Federal Budget 2019:
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) is emboldened by the announcement of several measures in the 2019 Federal Budget that will greatly benefit Canada’s sight loss community.
A 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, undertaken by Statistics Canada for Canadians 15 years of age and over, showed that 756,300 Canadians had “seeing disabilities.” In their more recent 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, this number increased by over 100% (1,519,840 Canadians with a “seeing disability”). These numbers reflect the scope of the problem – now exacerbated by an ever-aging population – which is why the measures announced in Budget 2019 are so important.
First, to address the challenges faced by Canadians with vision loss and print disabilities, we are pleased to see that Budget 2019 proposes to provide the Centre for Equitable Library Access with an investment of $3.0 million in 2019–20 to produce new accessible reading materials that will be available through public libraries across Canada. While this is a one-year allotment (hopefully to increase in the future), it is a good start for an initiative that is greatly appreciated by the sight loss and print disabilities community.
Second, the CCB supports and commends the government’s Budget proposal to invest $22.8 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, to provide Canada’s independent book publishing industry a much-needed assist in increasing their production of accessible books for persons with print disabilities. We will be waiting, with great anticipation, for materials provided to persons with print disabilities to exceed the 10% of books currently made available in accessible format.
Third, in support of independence of persons with disabilities, Budget 2019 also proposes to invest $0.5 million in 2019–20 towards finding ways to improve the accessibility of electronic payment terminals to enable persons with disabilities to conduct daily activities, such as paying for their groceries, without relying on others. Providing this type of accessibility with swift action on implementation will receive strong support from peoples with disabilities.
Fourth, the CCB is also pleased to see the mention of drug costs – which also affects many in our community. The budget included a section on pharmacare, with several announcements, including the introduction of the Canadian Drug Agency to improve prices and lower the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians by up to $3 billion per year in the long-term.
And finally, most notably to the CCB, the government is committed to improving employment opportunities for persons with sight loss. To this end, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $1.0 million in the next fiscal year to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to connect persons with vision loss to small- and medium-sized employers. The CCB sees this as a top priority. With chronic unemployment in the sight loss community (according to our recent survey), the CCB looks forward to reviewing the plans, confirming what will be covered, and getting a handle on where people will find work. The CCB is looking forward to working with the government and stakeholders, in this first of many steps required, to put Canadians with vision loss on an equal footing with their fellow Canadians.
Employment is a top concern for the low-vision community in Canada. For this reason, the CCB has recently completed a national “Survey on Accessibility and Assistive Technology” to help Canadians with vision loss participate in the workforce. Over 450 members of Canada’s vision loss community participated in the survey. The CCB looks forward to sharing the results of this survey with its federal government partners in this initiative.
The CCB would like to extend its deepest gratitude to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Carla Qualtrough, a true champion for Canadians with disabilities. The CCB offers its full support to Minister Qualtrough and looks forward to working to implement her broad vision for improving the lives of Canadians with sight loss and ensuring that this Budget 2019, when passed, contains these all-important measures.
Canadian Council of the Blind
For more information, contact Becky Goodwin at CCB National: firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-567-0311.