Teachers’ strike perceptions from a PWD and ODSP recipient.

As we all know, on Friday, education workers across Ontario went on strike.

This week, I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions and discuss its impact on people with disabilities outside the school system.

I’m a single guy without kids. On paper, the strike shouldn’t affect me. However, as a person with disabilities (PWD) who heavily relies on caregivers, it does. I’ll discuss why in a moment.

Another thing that I need to mention is that I disagree with our government using the notwithstanding clause to force educational workers back to work. I’m not going to delve into a lengthy political discussion here for many reasons. Let me just say that I think it’s wrong.

In fact, everything about the strike is wrong and, in some ways, scary. What will happen next, as far as our “freedoms” go?

Regarding the education workers, I support them, but not 100%, which is difficult for me to say.

As an elementary school student, I was surrounded by truly outstanding teachers and assistants. Most of my classes and classmates were considered children with special needs or special education students.

I went to Centennial Public School, which was integrated. The school was, and still is, very diverse. We had kids with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, hearing impairments, etc., etc. The really great part was there were also able-bodied students, as well as kids from other countries. This was amazing because we all had a chance to learn about each other and better understand how to communicate with different people.

I consider my time at Centennial Public School to be one of the happiest times in my life. A large part of the reason was because of the fantastic staff. I’ve also been told that, for the most part, Centennial is still the same.

So much has changed with both our education system and the world in general. Based on everything I’ve heard, teachers, students, and parents find getting the support they need more challenging. The pandemic only added to the situation.

We all know by now that during the pandemic restrictions, kids were forced to learn online, and many parents had to make alternative arrangements or take time off work, if possible.

This is where things start to get a little murky for me and, more than likely, for other PWD.

As I mentioned earlier, I rely heavily on caregivers to assist me in staying healthy, safe, and with daily living. Currently, two of my personal support worker (PSW) have kids. Fortunately, both have been able to make alternative arrangements during the pandemic and now, the strike by education workers.

I am grateful for that. I’m probably lucky. PSW and other caregivers aren’t always able to make alternative arrangements to look after their kids. As a result, PWD and others who depend on caregivers are being put at risk.

So far, I haven’t read or heard any media outlets talking about it, which is alarming. Again, considering how the media tends to ignore PWD, it doesn’t surprise me.

One more thing I need to mention relates to people with disabilities, particularly those on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

During this and previous strikes, money has often been mentioned. While yes, I fully agree that it’s not just about the money. For the sake that I’m including ODSP, I’m going to talk about the issue of money for a moment.

As an outside observer of our current school system, I’ve seen interviews with education workers where they talk about wanting to buy a bigger house, go on vacation, and so forth. Very rarely, if ever, have I seen an education worker say they need money for food, bills, etc. I’m not saying that it’s not a possibility. I know that it’s a possibility. I just haven’t come across it.

As a person on ODSP, I often read posts and tweets from others sharing stories of not being able to afford bills, groceries, or even transportation.

While, for the most part, I support the education workers, my opinion changes a bit when it comes to money and knowing many on ODSP are barely getting by.

We can almost all agree that the system is broken; several systems are broken.

The gap between the rich and the poor is far too wide. The rich are getting richer, while the poor are being left behind and forgotten about.

The part that makes me angry and frustrated. I can’t help but believe that if the media devoted even half of their coverage that the strike’s receiving and put it towards those on ODSP, and PWD, we’d be in a better position. At the absolute least, our voices would be heard by a much bigger audience.

Until that day comes, thinking about those on ODSP and others in need will always be front and center in my mind.

Photo: ODPS protest via @david.meyers.75457