I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, for almost nine years. Looking at all the resources on both sides of the border, I have a more objective view of how things work, both good and bad. I’m not going to say one is unequivocally better than the other, and I’m not going to get political. I’m just giving you a description of both care systems. If you want, you can draw your own conclusions.
The financial care system for Canadians with disabilities is set up in a similar way to ours in the States. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is available to people who have put in a certain number of work quarters, just as Social Security Disability Insurance is.
Since I lived in Alberta the entire time, I’ll stick with Alberta and what they do to care for people with disabilities. Their provincial program is called Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH)–oh, how I always detested that name! The maximum amount a person can receive in Alberta is $1588. The medical benefits over and above what would be the right of a Canadian citizen that people receive from AISH are prescription drugs, essential diabetic supplies, optical, dental, emergency ambulance services, and an exemption from the Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) co-pay fees. Personal benefits assist clients with specific, one-time or ongoing expenses over and above the monthly living allowance or modified living allowance. There is no specific government assistance for food, such as SNAP; but there are local food banks and pantries that are available to people in need.
Optical and dental services are covered by Medicaid in some states, not all–for instance, North Carolina.
The exhaustive process of becoming approved by CPP/AISH is similar to the process of being approved for SSDI or SSI. One thing I really did appreciate about the AISH program is that a person was assigned a caseworker whom he/she is actually allowed to speak with on the phone or meet directly in their office.
The paratransit system in Alberta was much more comprehensive than here where I live now, in North Carolina. They charged for monthly passes, and the amount they collected helped finance rides to do other things besides attend appointments and day programs. I know that I lived in a much larger city then, but the comparison is a difficult to make.
When I lived in Canada, and asked about certain services, I was told by people (the same ones I mentioned before) that I wasn’t disabled enough to receive certain services. I probably wouldn’t be able to access paratransit because I could walk to a bus stop and stand and wait for the bus. I was also told that if I ever tried to get a wheelchair when my mobility was becoming more impaired, I wouldn’t get a very good one because I was still able to walk some.
There are many good things on both sides of the border, and if we could come up with some kind of hybrid assistance, maybe more Canadians and Americans with disabilities would be included in their society, be able to work and travel, and have a social life that didn’t require a caregiver to make it happen. Living in Asheville, if I had paratransit like Edmonton had, I would have the life I had hoped for before I moved here.
Canada does not have a Canadians with Disabilities law. Their general civil rights extend to people with disabilities and help their inclusion in their world. Unfortunately, this does not make it easier for people to get jobs where they can earn a living wage. That problem is real in both countries.
Neither country has a perfect system. It was interesting to live in Canada and see how their system worked and didn’t work. I wish it helped me figure out how to advocate in the States for what we need here.