Forum on housing standards for people with disabilities hopes to get it right

A long-awaited opportunity for people with disabilities and their families and caregivers to voice concern over home-safety standards arrived in Edmonton Monday.

'There was a lot of confusion,' MLA Marie Renaud said.

Parents of children with developmental disabilities met at Lister Centre on the University of Alberta campus Monday to talk about safety standards in care homes and private residences. (CBC)

A long-awaited opportunity for people with disabilities, their families and caregivers to voice concern over safety standards arrived in Edmonton Monday.

Dozens of people met at Lister Centre at the University of Alberta campus to offer ideas on how to make the homes of people with developmental disabilities safer, but without the cost being prohibitive.

The former Alberta government introduced new rules which many thought were overly restrictive, costly and discriminatory, said John te Linde, chair of the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) safety standards consultation team.

Some of those regulations called for sprinkler systems in homes, anti-scald devices or even, in some case, a change of zoning for the home.

After an outcry from the PDD community, the government announced it would launch an extensive consultation process.

"There was a lot of confusion," said MLA Marie Renaud, who had rallied against the standards before being elected to office last spring.

"We're hearing from parents that first of all they're happy that this happened. It's a new kind of consultation, so they are happy to share. But they are really worried ... about a move from community living to  institutionalization for their sons and daughters."

te Linde, whose son lives in a care home, said safety is more than changes to building codes.

"For me, the most important thing is the quality of the staff, that the staff understand my son, that they work with him for a while, they know when he's not feeling right or there's something wrong, that they're attentive to his needs."

Eight meetings are being held across the province. After meetings in Westlock and Grande Prairie last week, the consultation team arrived in Edmonton on Monday, and will move to Calgary on Wednesday.

The consultation team will submit a report to the Minister of Human Services by the end of the month.