Young adults with disabilities discriminated against based on age, human rights commission says

The Manitoba government systematically discriminated against two young adults with disabilities who lost support services upon graduating from high school, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission says.

People with disabilities lose necessary supports upon turning 18, complainants argued

Tyson Sylvester is one of two people who filed complaints with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, alleging the government discriminates against young adults with disabilities. (CBC)

The Manitoba government systematically discriminated against two young adults with disabilities who lost support services upon graduating from high school, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission says.

In two new reports released Tuesday, the commission found that Tyson Sylvester and Amy Hampton, along with other adults with severe lifelong disabilities, are discriminated against based on their age.

That finding is based on the fact that when they turn 18, they cease to be eligible for a wide range of supports available to them when they were children.

"I want there to be funding for everyone and not just specific individuals or specific groups," Sylvester said in an interview on CBC Manitoba's afternoon radio show, Up to Speed.

"We all deserve to live our lives to the fullest and I feel without funding we cannot achieve that goal."

Sylvester, 22, and Hampton, 21, both have cerebral palsy and require assistance with everyday activities like dressing and feeding themselves. They filed their complaint against the Manitoba government and Winnipeg Regional Health authority in 2016.

Province can go to mediation or adjudication

The province has two weeks to decide whether to follow the commission's recommendation and enter into mediation with Sylvester and Hampton, or to reject it and go to adjudication.

"I'm feeling very positive and I'm feeling that the government is open to negotiation, and I sure hope that they are because the adjudication process could possibly take a really long time," Sylvester said.

Lawyer Byron Williams is with the Public Interest Law Centre, which helped Sylvester and Hampton in their case. He says the commission's report is an important first step.

"A systemic solution would be not just for Tyson and Amy but for others, and to assess them based upon their need and make a commitment to give them equality of opportunity," he said.

Sylvester drew public attention to his case earlier this summer when he locked himself in a cage in Old Market Square as a way of representing the feeling of being trapped by his disability.

Sylvester sat in a cage in Old Market Square in June to illustrate the plight of disabled people. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

The young man, who wants to study law or computer science, is visually impaired and needs a screen reader, one piece of technology that was provided to him in high school but taken away when he graduated.

In Manitoba, young people with physical disabilities have access to a number of supports that aim to foster their social inclusion while they're in school — things like special equipment, one-on-one support, occupational therapy and transportation.

But the supports dry up when they graduate from high school.

Although Sylvester qualifies for 55 hours a week in home care services, he says he can only access those services if he stays at home.

Hampton, Sylvester's co-complainant, is non-verbal but communicates through facial expressions, hand gestures and sounds.

If the province decides to go to mediation, the process will last no longer than 60 days.

If it goes to adjudication, the hearing would be open to the public and a decision would be final. The adjudication process would be expected to last well into 2019.


With files from Cameron MacLean and Shane Gibson