The Ford Fallout: “I was scraping by on $1,406 a month. Now that’s been cut to $823”
Zeljko Bibic relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program to pay for his rent, groceries, clothing and transportation. Without warning, his monthly amount was slashed. Part 6 in our series
“I’ve had cerebral palsy since I was born. It’s a neurological disorder that affects every part of my life. I can’t read or write and I can only do things with my left hand. I use an electric wheelchair and I need help getting in and out of bed, taking my medication, eating food, showering and going to the bathroom.
“I grew up in Scarborough with my parents and younger sister, but because of my 24-hour needs, I’ve lived in hospitals and facilities since I was 12. I moved into an assisted living residence 23 years ago. I have my own apartment and there’s always staff close by. The staff and neighbours help me a lot, but it’s an old building, and my unit has been sprayed for cockroaches three times in the past year.
“I like to swim for exercise and I spend a lot of time watching crime shows like Forensic Files. My mom comes to visit often, but otherwise I’m usually on my own.
“I’ve been dependent on the Ontario Disability Support Program since I was 18. I used to receive $1,406 a month. That wasn’t much, but it covered my subsidized rent, which is $152 a month, plus groceries, some of my medications and cellphone, Internet and cable bills.
“Earlier this year, Ontario disability told me I’d now only be getting $823 a month. They said they’d be sending my rent directly to my residence, as well as paying for some of my medical supplies. But that didn’t explain why I’d be receiving $400 less per month. When I asked my caseworker, she just said that’s the way things were now.
“The ODSP is unrealistic about how much things cost. I get five taxi chits a month for my regular hospital visits but I have to pay for other trips myself. Because of my wheelchair, I don’t have access to transportation options like Uber that other people can use. I’m basically confined to expensive wheelchair-accessible taxis or Wheel-Trans. My sister lives in Richmond Hill, so I need to transfer between the TTC and York Region Transit’s accessible vehicles, which sometimes take hours to pick me up, depending on their availability. This makes even a simple trip for a party or dinner an ordeal. The easier option of taking an accessible taxi to my sister’s home is a $140 round trip. Because of that, I’ve only visited her once in the past year and a half.
“Once I pay rent, food and bills, there’s nothing left for clothes and household supplies. My family helps out with groceries, and my mother and sister spend more than $100 a month for a portion of any medication that isn’t covered by OHIP.
“I’ve tried to fight to get more from the ODSP, but I’m giving up. I’m angry that I’m getting less money with no real explanation. I wish I could meet Doug Ford and say, ‘Put yourself in a wheelchair and try to live my life with almost no money and no accessibility and see how you feel.'”