'Everyone in this province has value': Disabled Surrey man challenges party leaders on social media

21-year-old Nathan Shipley has taken to social media during the 2017 provincial election to highlight what he says is a lack of consideration for people living with disabilities.

21-year-old Nathan Shipley takes to social media at election time to vent his frustration

Nathan Shipley, sitting beside his mother and his younger brother, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy quadriplegia shortly after he was born. (Nathan Shipley/Nathanjsplace.com)

Nathan Shipley is worried he'll never be able to move away from home.

The 21-year-old Surrey man was diagnosed with cerebral palsy quadriplegia shortly after he was born, confining him to a wheelchair and limiting the movement of his limbs. He says If he wanted to move away from his mother, it's unlikely he could survive on the province's current $1,033 per month disability allowance.

"I've done what I can to get a paying job — however, it's difficult for me to find something that I can do," he pleaded on a video he sent to B.C.'s provincial election candidates.

Shipley knows he can contribute: he graduated high school with honours, he volunteers and has even worked as a community ambassador. 

But with little attention paid by all the party leaders during their campaigns to people living with disabilities, he says he fears he, and many others, will never get the chance.

An online plea

B.C.'s monthly disability rate falls below the poverty line. Over the last year, the province has increased the rate twice. Many fought hard for the extra dollars — and were equally disappointed with the end result, amounting to just dollars a day.

"In a perfect world, [we'd] like to see a little bit more funding ... so, its not so you have to fight for every dollar just to live," Shipley told CBC News.

Shipley took to social media in hopes of getting the message out to B.C.'s party leaders.

He put together a short video urging leaders to consider people with disabilities during their campaign and sent it to each party over Facebook. He's not holding his breath for a response — but still hopes it will make a difference.

"I challenge you to think of me, my friends, the families, the people who are struggling or the people who have kids who are waiting months on wait lists for much needed services," he said in his message to the candidates. "Remember, everyone in this province has value. Ask yourself, will your promises truly help all British Columbians?"

Nathan Shipley, pictured above when he was a child, has grown up to be a volunteer speaker and community advocate on behalf of people living with disabilities. (Nathan Shipley/Nathanjsplace)

Party platforms

According to disability advocate Jane Dyson, Shipley's concerns are well founded.

"I watched the debate ... and the word 'disability' was not mentioned once by any of the parties," said Dyson, director of the Disability Alliance B.C. "We're concerned by the lack of focus on disabilities, from any of the parties."

Each party's commitment to people with disabilities is limited. The B.C. Liberals' platform promises to double the home renovation tax credit to make buildings more accessible for people with disabilities, while highlighting their recent income assistance increases.

Meanwhile, the NDP platform promises to increase rates by an additional $100 and restore the B.C. Bus Program for people living with disabilities.

The B.C. Greens platform promises to increase rates by 10 per cent this fall, with a goal of a 50 per cent increase by 2020.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark, Green Leader Andrew Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan shake hands before the leaders' debate on Wednesday, April 26 2017. (BC Broadcast Consortium)

But Dyson questions what life will be like for people with disabilities following the election.

"The rates absolutely need to be improved ... and frankly, even with the NDP's commitment to $100, it's still not enough for people to live with a bit more dignity and independence in the community."

​With the cost of living in the Lower Mainland well beyond what's affordable for people living on assistance, Dyson says there needs to be greater emphasis on career development.

"Most [people receiving income assistance] would much prefer not to be on benefits and would prefer to be working."

About the Author

Jon Hernandez

Digital Associate Producer

Jon Hernandez is an award-winning multimedia journalist from Vancouver, British Columbia. His reporting has explored mass international migration in Chile, controversial logging practices in British Columbia, and the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Follow Jon Hernandez on Twitter: