Hi, I’m Abidah, manager of government relations at the MS Society in Ontario. I’m working to effect change within our provincial government on behalf of people who are affected by multiple sclerosis. Ultimately, I want to make sure people living with MS are fully included and supported in all aspects of our communities.
A big part of my role is to connect people living with MS to members of our provincial government, so that their voices are heard and their experiences reach an audience of people who can make real change and address issues that directly affect people living with episodic illnesses and disabilities. Those people living with MS who lend their time and stories for this kind of awareness are called “MS Ambassadors”, and I couldn’t do my work without them.
Last week, I joined forces with a group of dynamic MS Ambassadors and headed to Queen’s Park in Toronto, where we had the chance to meet with 21 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) and their staff to discuss key priority issues that affect people living with MS.
We talked about introducing a refundable caregiver tax credit to help low to mid-income families, as the cost of caregiving is often overlooked when we’re thinking about disability costs for Canadian families. We also talked about implementing a caregiver assessment tool to ensure consistency and support for all, as well as implementing a model of self/family-directed care that would allow caregivers to choose the services they need.
Our volunteer MS Ambassadors advocated for the expansion of Ontario’s model for physiotherapy delivery, so that people living with disabilities are covered, regardless of age or employment status. People living with disabilities often don’t have extended benefits coverage due to high unemployment, yet they are also often the ones who need these services the most—we need to make sure our healthcare system is accommodating to people living with MS who need physiotherapy for good quality of life.
A large part of our conversations with MPPs focused on encouraging government officials to take concrete action within the province and its federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements to increase existing benefits for people with disabilities; change eligibility criteria to ensure people with episodic illnesses have access to disability tax credits and benefit programs; and develop innovative services that really help people with MS and other episodic disabilities keep their jobs.
While hard data helped to drive home the need for change, it was the sharing of personal stories that I think really demonstrated the significance of these issues to the elected officials and bureaucrats who were present that day.
Overall, our annual day at Queen’s Park was a success, and we will continue to fight for positive policy changes in Ontario for people affected by MS. It was a great day and an excellent opportunity for us to ensure our collective voice is heard.
Are you on Twitter? Follow me @absie18 and tweet at me if you would like to work together in Ontario to effect change for people living with MS!