Canada Disability Benefit Roundtable

Minister of Diversity, Inclusion & Persons with Disabilities – CDB Round Table

By: Catherine Dumé

On October 20th, 2023, the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion & Persons with Disabilities – Honourable Kamal Khera – hosted a round table to discuss the Canadian Disability Benefit that gained royal approval this past July to learn its impact on young persons with disabilities.

On October 20th, I had the distinct honour of representing the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and the University of Toronto at the Honourable Kamal Khera—Ministry of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities’ Canadian Disability Benefit (CDB) round table. As a former CHHA summer student who was integral to the production of the Speak Up! Podcast, it felt nice to be back to represent CHHA.

The CDB legislation, which was passed this summer, is aimed to be implemented next year.

The roundtable consisted of disabled individuals, youth, and those who represented key stakeholders and disability organizations to discuss how we could improve the CDB. One of the things Minister Khera focused on was to hear the voices of disabled youth and young adults who will be affected by this new benefit. For the discussion, participants were encouraged to answer the following questions:

  1. What are some of the key challenges to achieving financial security for youth with disabilities? How do intersecting factors impact these challenges?
  2. What are the major barriers that youth with disabilities face in accessing government programs, services and supports that should be taken into consideration in the design and delivery of the Canada Disability Benefit?
  3. How can we collectively reduce these barriers and make the CDB more accessible?

Some of the issues and concerns that were raised were:

  1.  Registering for the benefit and amount of paperwork needed
  2. Covering the cost of transition periods between registering and receiving the benefit.
  3. The issue of individuals with invisible or less severe disabilities being treated as if they are not “disabled enough.”
  4. The intersectionality of being black and disabled and how individuals are not being seen as disabled because of their race and stereotypes.
  5. The issue of Canadians not being aware of existing supports and programs.
  6. If the CDB will have a geographic limitation, as other benefits such as ODSP currently restrict Ontarians from traveling more than 30 days out of province by placing their funding on hold.
  7. How will the CDB impact funding provided by ODSP and other provincial funding.
  8. The importance of investing in youth leadership and community building and collaborating with disability organizations, and student advisory groups.
  9. How the existing gaps in accommodations as students transition from highschool to university has an impact on their future work opportunities
  10. How will the CDB mitigate Canadians’ experience with ableism and discrimination in the workplace.
  11. Disabled youth with an already low financial background may not have the education needed to have a decent paying job as they couldn’t afford a higher education especially on top of the expenses with having a disability – especially those of persons of colour and other vulnerable populations.
  12. Concerns about finding employment after finishing their programs. As well as staying employed for a long period of time, some students have still expressed concerns about taking longer than 4 years because of the high cost of living, especially in large cities like Toronto. How the CDB could offset some of these costs.
  13. How the CDB could assist Canadians in their process of getting diagnosed as they have very limited options: Go to a private clinic (more money, less wait times) or go to a public clinic (less money, longer wait times up to a year or more).

We discussed issues such as knowing whether you are disabled enough, existing problems with accessing programs and services such as ODSP, OW and the difficulty of being diagnosed, the gaps in transitioning from high school to university in terms of getting accommodations/support, and how that impacts students as they find high paying jobs in the future, as well as how existing discrimination and inaccessibility in the workplace all impact persons with disabilities. These are all issues we must consider and address if we are to ensure that the Canadian Disability Benefit will serve the community.

“Today I was also privileged to hear from youth with disabilities who shared their experiences & thoughts on the Canada Disability Benefit regulations. The CDB will be an important support for youth with disabilities, enabling them to reach their full potential.” — Honourable Kamal Khera

We need to continue advocating for this bill by ensuring persons with disabilities — especially young people—are at the table, shaping this legislation and future ones to further support and strengthen the community. To make this happen, it is important that the government collaborate with disability organizations.

Catherine Dumé is a 5th year undergraduate political science student at University of Toronto. She is a writer and disability advocate who experiences high-frequency loss. For the last three years, Catherine has been the Accessibility Feature Correspondent of  The Varsity newspaper, the founder and former president of University of Toronto’ Accessibility Awareness Club (U-TAAC), and is now the current Student Co-Chair of Accessibility Services Student Advisory Committee. As she finishes her bachelors, she plans on continuing her political science degree by becoming a political theorist, researching disability citizenship and the policies that impact the participation of Canadians with disabilities.