December 03, 2015

The Journey Begins: Saskatchewan's Disability Strategy

In honour of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer today announced the priority areas that government will focus on as it begins work on Saskatchewan’s Disability Strategy.

“These six priority areas were chosen because they are foundational,” Harpauer said.  “By focusing on these areas first, we can begin building for the future so we can effectively respond to the needs identified by citizens during the province-wide consultations.”

The six priority areas are taken directly from the Citizen Consultation Team’s (CCT) Final Report, People Before Systems: Transforming the Experience of Disability in Saskatchewan.

These priorities are:

  1. Availability of accessible and safe transportation in communities;
  2. Respite services for families with children and adults experiencing disabilities;
  3. Improvements to existing accessibility legislation or the development of new accessibility legislation;
  4. Residential services for people experiencing disability;
  5. Service co-ordination and navigation of services required for those experiencing disability; and
  6. Awareness and understanding of the rights of people experiencing disabilities.

Amy Alsop, former Co-Chair of the Citizen Consultation Team, said she is very pleased with the focus this initial announcement brings to implementation.  Alsop noted that the CCT was well aware that all the recommendations would not be accomplished at once.

“These priorities show that the Provincial Government is committed to our vision of Saskatchewan as an inclusive province that is welcoming, responsive, innovative and accessible,” Alsop said.”

In addition, as one of the largest employers in Saskatchewan, the Public Service Commission is launching a Disability Employment Action Plan to improve access to, and improve the employment experience for, persons experiencing disability within Executive Government.

“Though our government is pleased to be taking a leadership role in implementing the Strategy, we cannot do this alone,” Harpauer said.  “As the Citizen Consultation Team has stated, the success of the Strategy requires the support and partnership of all levels of government and other sectors over the next 10 years, and beyond.”

For example, the recent installation of the Audible Stop Announcement System in Regina and Saskatoon is making conventional buses more accessible to citizens experiencing disability.  The audible stop announcements will notify riders of upcoming bus locations to make sure they arrive at the correct destination.

“Transportation is foundational to the inclusion of people experiencing disabilities,” Saskatoon Mayor Donald Atchison said.  “It is a key that unlocks the doors for employment, recreation, education and everything else citizens require.  That is why we were so proud to launch these important transportation initiatives.”

“The Citizen Consultation Team’s final report is very comprehensive," Harpauer said.  “I am confident these priority areas will bring focus and move us forward in creating a Saskatchewan where all can be included."

Implementation plans for the priority areas, including timelines and costing, are being developed.

Government ministries are also exploring opportunities to both advance and integrate other provincial strategies, including the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan and the Poverty Reduction Strategy currently under development.