The mother of a hearing-impaired toddler is pleading with the federal government to give her family benefits under the disability tax credit.
Charlotte Walters' two-year-old son Easton has moderate hearing loss in one ear and severe hearing loss in the other. They live in Blockhouse, in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.
Easton has been wearing two hearing aids since he was three months old.
"It's hard because we can see him every day with the struggles and we know that it is a disability," Walters said.
Easton's devices cost a thousand dollars apiece and they'll need to be replaced as he grows.
Don't get your hopes up
There are other expenses too: new ear molds every three months and cleaning materials. Walters also takes time off work once a week to take Easton to a special tutor.
She said she applied twice for a disability tax credit and has been denied both times.
"He has a device," she said. "The device would cover his hearing loss and is not considered a disability once you have a device."
Easton said she had her son's audiologist fill out the application form available on the government website. But her doctor warned her not to get her hopes up.
Change via petition?
If she were to qualify, Walters said her family would be eligible for as much as $250 per month. "It's not a huge substantial amount, but it will help," she said.
To push her appeal for a tax credit, Walters has signed a national petition that originated in Ontario calling for changes.
The petition said the language in the Income Tax Act that's used to determine if a hearing-impaired person should qualify for the tax credit is too restrictive.
A person's hearing should be evaluated not in "a quiet setting" the petition argues, but in a "normal/typical setting."
Pam Damoff is the Liberal MP from Ontario who agreed to sponsor the petition after meeting with families this summer whose children don't qualify for the tax credit.
Damoff said the Income Tax Act discriminates against people with hearing impairments.
"You're covered for a wheelchair, which assists you in movement," she said. "But you're still paralyzed."
'Still a disability no matter how you look at it'
The petition recommends other changes in assessing a person's hearing.
It proposes changing the requirement that a person be unable to understand "a person familiar to them" to "another person." People with hearing loss communicate with people unfamiliar to them every day, say the authors of the petition.
Finally, it recommends removing the requirement that a person's hearing be assessed while wearing a listening device.
"It's still a disability no matter how you look at it," Walters said. "And it's going to affect his life throughout his whole life."
The petition will be presented to the House of Commons later this year.