'They're people': group aims to raise awareness about disabilities ahead of Manitoba election

Manitobans with disabilities want their issues to be addressed in the spring provincial election, says advocacy group Disability Matters Vote 2016.

Disability Matters: Vote 2016 aims to make the democratic process accessible, raise awareness

People gathered at The Fresh Carrot grocery store near Confusion Corner to support the Disability Matters: Vote 2016 announcement. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Manitobans with disabilities want their issues to be addressed in the spring provincial election, says advocacy group Disability Matters Vote 2016. The group released the five key areas it wants political parties and voters to be aware of when Manitobans go to the polls April 19. 
Malinda Roberts, a spokesperson for Disability Matters: Vote 2016, says issues that affect people with disabilities need to be addressed in the upcoming election. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"[These issues] impact hundreds of thousands of Manitobans who are often disenfranchised, often vulnerable people, and they all have gifts and strengths and they're people. They have the right to live and be a part of our communities," said Malinda Roberts, who is a spokesperson for the group.

Roberts said after consultations with people who live with disabilities, the priorities include; accessibility, fair wages for support workers, timely access to resources, employment opportunities, and dignified income for those who rely on government assistance.

"We've heard directly from people with disabilities that these are the key issues that are impacting their lives," said Roberts. 

The group says there are approximately 168,000 people living with disabilities in Manitoba. This includes physical, mental, sensory and intellectual disabilities.

Roy Otaki is a father of four. Three of his children live with disabilities including autism and ADHD. He was at the launch Friday to support the group and speak about his family's struggle to access services.

"There's not really a handbook that says, 'Your child has a disability. Here's steps A through Z. It's super easy.' It's nowhere near that," said Otaki.

He says navigating the system to find resources is difficult, and even when resources are identified, there is often a wait list to get those services. Otaki says it can be even more difficult for people with language barriers or disabilities of their own to access help.
Roy Otaki has children living with disabilities. He says accessing services can be challenging and there is often long wait times, putting pressure on families. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"Even if the [government] does offer more services, if they are not accessible, if they are not able to be translated properly to certain ethnicities and people, the money, will really just be sitting there. It needs to be available and easy to access," he said.

The group seeks to ensure that each political party is aware of the five key points and encourages them to address them in their election platforms. DMV2016 also provides support and resources to help those with disabilities navigate the election process.

Those in attendance at today's event were given handouts with lists of questions that they can ask candidates who come to their door, and a sample letter that demonstrates how they can reach out to their local candidate. They also offer supports online through their website.

"Come election night I hope that we can look back and know that disability issues were talked about," said Roberts.

The Disability Matters: Vote 2016 campaign is a joint initiative of Abilities Manitoba and Barrier Free Manitoba.