Ontario government turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the deafblind

TORONTO, Feb. 23 /CNW/ - The government of Ontario proposed a new model for funding critical services to deafblind Ontarians that, if implemented, could result in a 45 per cent reduction in services and funding for Ontario's most vulnerable.

DeafBlind Ontario Services is a not-for-profit organization that provides residential and other specialized services to adults who are congenitally deafblind. These vital services enable clients to gain the necessary communication and life skills to be more independent, and contribute to the greater community through the use of Intervenors, specially trained professionals who act as the "eyes" and "ears" of the deafblind.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services proposed a funding formula in the fall of 2010 that could result in a drastic reduction to Intervenor services, seriously impacting the quality of life of deafblind Ontarians. 

DeafBlind Ontario Services has participated in several meetings with Ministry staff on this issue, including other service providers in the sector, to achieve a positive outcome that is fair and equitable to all deafblind Ontarians. The Ministry recognizes that Intervenor services are a vital support service, and that the proposed funding allocation model needs to be re-worked.  While the ministry is committed to working with their partners on a new funding model for Intervenor services, they also must manage the model within available resources.

It has now become clear that those resources are simply not sufficient to provide these essential services and avoid cuts.

Since the fall, DeafBlind Ontario Services has been hard at work, advocating for more dollars for the Intervenor services sector. Representatives have visited or written letters to every MPP in the province. They have written directly to Premier Dalton McGuinty.   

The organization has participated in pre-budget consultations and has met with Ministry of Finance staff to advise them how small an investment it would take in the government's budget to solve this problem - $2 million a year over five years. 

The ball is in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's court, and deafblind Ontarians now wait in limbo.

Julia Ford's stepson, Karl, is deafblind. "Karl has been living in a DeafBlind Ontario Services group home in Peterborough since August 2009," says Ford. "He absolutely loves it and has been thriving in the environment. His Intervenors have been helping him to understand the world and have helped him to accomplish things like being successful at a small job in the community helping the firefighters wash their equipment." 

Diane Gabay, whose son Charles is also a client of DeafBlind Ontario Services, agrees.  "Without the support of an Intervenor, Charles would be trapped in his body, unable to participate in life - literally in a prison. I don't like to imagine him with less support because of these potential cuts."

"If 95% of what we learn comes from our eyes and ears, imagine the challenges of being deafblind," says Roxanna Spruyt-Rocks, Executive Director of DeafBlind Ontario Services. "We are hopeful that the Ministry of Finance will open their eyes and ears and give this sector the resources needed to enable deafblind Ontarians to reach their full potential."

About DeafBlind Ontario Services

DeafBlind Ontario Services (www.deafblindontario.com) is a not-for-profit organization that creates safe and comfortable environments that enable individuals who are deafblind throughout the province to live more independently.  DeafBlind Ontario Services currently supports adults who are deafblind with community-based housing, professional Intervenor services, independent living skills, work experience and social programs.

SOURCE DeafBlind Ontario Services

For further information:

Media Contact:BlueSky Communications, Leah Gaucher, lgaucher@blueskycommunications.com, 416.929.2052 or Julie McCarthy, jmccarthy@blueskycommunications.com, 416.929.8253.

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