THE A-E-I-O-U’S OF ACCESSIBILITY — Y IS FOR YES!

It’s here at last, the final instalment in the series, The A-E-I-O-U’s of Accessibility! It’s bittersweet reaching this point, but more than a sadness at seeing this series come to an end, I’m excited to see where we take it going forward in our lives. I, as much as anyone else, have so much to learn, so much to explore, and I for one, am so excited!

A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y… isn’t that the rhyme we’ve been taught when learning our alphabet? Y’s place on the list of vowels is questionable, but on this list, there’s no argument.

Why.

Because…

Y is for Yes!

I’m not a natural adventurer. I’ve grown into this aspect of my personality and primarily, it’s come through practice and repetition. When faced with “hey Rhianna, do you want to go [camping, spelunking, skydiving, etc, you can fill in the blank], my instinctual response is to say no in favour of staying securely within my comfort zone at home with a cup of coffee, my guide dog and the familiarity of my surroundings.

But I’m learning to say yes. Not always to adventures of the outdoor variety because to be frank, I don’t believe I’ll ever enjoy them. One needs only to ask my ex-boyfriend to find out how grumpy I am on camping trips. But in non-outdoor environments, ones that are designed to grow me as a person and expand the limited perspective I’ve become accustomed to from living inside Rhianna’s brain for 26 years, I’m learning to say yes.

So, when the conversation turns to accessibility, I’m learning to always say yes.

Recently, I was asked if I thought the perception around disability and disabled people in society was improving. Yes, I said, when it came to physical accessibility and the ways in which we can accommodate different bodies; more buildings have wheelchair ramps, there’s more education and resources available on adaptive equipment and the creation of those devices are becoming more widely known and recognized in the non-disabled community.

But I also said no, I didn’t believe it was improving in the places where it counts the most–in the hearts of the people we love and do life with.

When I’m being “helped” across the street against my will, I do not feel trusted as an individual, capable of making safe decisions. When I’m denied access to establishments because I work with a guide dog, I feel discriminated against because of a tool that gives me independence in a way I’ve never had before and that many people take for granted. When a disabled person is praised and viewed as inspiring for being able to use a microwave, we are belittled. When our disabilities make able-bodied people thankful that they aren’t like us, we are pushed to the margins of society.

Until our disabilities are seen as an asset, until we are treated as people, until we are valued as equal members of society and not pushed to the sidelines, we have not grasped the true meaning of acceptance, love and equality.

there is so much work still to be done. And the best way to do this is to say yes.

But how, Rhianna? What do we say yes to? Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

  • Say yes to making the lives of disabled people as fulfilling and lifegiving as possible.
  • Say yes when disabled people need you to cheer them on in the fight against ableism and discrimination.
  • Say yes, I trust you, when disabled people tell you they don’t need help.
  • Say yes, I’ll help you, when a disabled person does reach out for help.
  • Say yes to seeing people with disabilities as people and not broken objects in need of fixing.
  • Say yes to being our allies and not our enemies.
  • Say yes, I see you for you and not what is or is not on the outside.

We are people. And people deserving of the same human dignity, value and love that every human deserves.

But we also have disabilities, and those parts of us are just as valuable, just as worthy and just as in need of love and equality as any other.

Come with me and let’s work to create a world of accessibility, equality, trust and care for every person in it. Because when we make the world a better place for one person, it becomes a better place for everyone.

Well? What do you say?

A BOY BROKE MY WHITE CANE AND DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE — A MINI MEMOIR

A true story from my middle school days, I’m sharing the following story because I want to raise awareness of a very real issue that many people don’t consider:

Never touch a disabled person’s mobility tool. Whether that be a guide dog, a cane [as in this story], a wheelchair or any other type of mobility aid, it is for no one’s use except by the person it’s intended to support. And that is because it is not simply a piece of equipment or technology, but it is their access, their freedom, independence, mobility, safety and their means of communicating with and moving through the world.

But when that freedom and independence is compromised, it can wreak havoc and put that person in challenging and potentially dangerous situations. And more importantly, it takes away their autonomy.

There’s the moral of the story, even though we haven’t gotten to the story yet. So, without further ado…


I’m in the seventh-grade wing of my middle school, the halls blissfully clear and quiet now that class is in session. I’m on my way to the resource room, where I frequently work on projects one-on-one with my braillist. It’s just easier sometimes, especially in math and science when I need more specific adaptations or explanations of sighted concepts that are hard to understand. I don’t mind; anything to get out of a classroom of kids I’m not friends with.

The resource room is on the opposite side of the school, up a flight of stairs, down a ramp and past several twists and turns. But I know it forward and backward. I can walk it with my eyes closed, I think to myself, and I smile sardonically at my own blind joke.

And it’s a good thing, too, since I’m still in the hall by Mrs. George’s classroom when a boy slams into me, nearly knocking me to the ground. Where did he come from? There was nothing but a split second of pounding footfalls before the impact.

But before I can say anything, he’s gone.
I regain my balance, and notice that the quiet of the hall has returned as quickly as it was interrupted. I shake it off as best I can and grab my cane to begin walking to the resource room. But something is wrong. Very, very wrong.

The end of my cane, which has a rolling tip on it that rolls smoothly as I sweep my cane ahead of me from right to left, isn’t there. Instead of the smooth, bumping sound reverberating from the linoleum, there’s only an eerie nothingness. The tip isn’t touching the ground. It’s then that I reach forward, trailing my hand from the rubber grip top of the cane downward.

And then I see it. My cane is broken. Snapped in two like a twig. A carbon graphite twig. The lower half hangs limply from the string which is normally thread invisibly through the cane, holding it together.

I can’t use my cane like this! It’s physically impossible. And without a cell phone, or anyone in the hall, and no way to tell my braillist what’s happened, I take a step forward and am thankful I was taught how to keep myself safe as a kid before I got a cane. I hold my cane in the crook of my arm, and put one hand up to protect my face and the other in front of my belly button, and I start walking.

I shuffle through the halls–careful not to lift my foot in case of missing a drop off and POOF, down I go–up the stairs, down the ramps, and listen for the echo of the openness where the hallways intersect, and turn. I don’t pass anyone which I’m grateful for because I know this must look weird. What’s the blind girl doing now?

I make it to the resource room unscathed, my broken cane tucked under my arm. I work on my science project, then my braillist guides me out to the parking lot to meet my mom when the bell rings.

Then, we buy a new cane.

THE A-E-I-O-U’S OF ACCESSIBILITY — U IS FOR UNITE

Welcome back to The A-E-I-O-U’s of Accessibility, with our fifth post, U Is For Unite.

Unity is a word that I thought existed purely within the confines of a church. Growing up in a Christian household, I heard verses like Colossians 3:14: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony,” I Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment,” and Philippians 2:2 which says “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” spoken in sermons and Bible studies, and I presumed that it was only a “Christianese” term, or religious jargon.

As a Christian, these verses hold a very special place in my life and in my faith journey. But I’m learning that what I thought of as “church words” have meaning outside of Sunday mornings, too.

Unity is one of those words. And it fits perfectly into the conversation of accessibility and disability equality.

Unite For One Goal

Pop quiz! (Don’t worry, I’m not actually grading you).

What is the goal that this series is trying to achieve?

If you said accessibility, you get a half point. No, you’re not wrong—it’s in the title, after all! But there’s a vital component that’s missing which can fill in the blank and help us gain a fuller picture of how to reach for and achieve accessibility.

This series was born out of and exists to explore ways we as a society can be more accessible, both in a physical context and in our attitudes and beliefs about disability and the people living with disabilities. It’s designed to lay a foundation upon which we can build a more accessible world in which disabled people are valued, prioritized and held as equal.

It hopes to encourage all people, able-bodied and disabled alike, to work together, bring together each person’s unique contributions in pursuit of making our world more accessible for all the people who live in it. Because when the abilities, skills, talents and passions of people come together, working toward a single, unified goal, I believe so much more can be accomplished.

Remember, if you can [I’ve tried to block it out, to be honest] when you were asked to work on a project as part of a team. These encounters were at best frustrating, and at worst, infuriating, in part perhaps because of who I was partnered with but more so because of how divisive the group usually became; one member would work harder than others, one would be late getting their portion in, and the final project would be the opposite of a cohesive team effort. At least I hope your experiences haven’t been like many of mine. But regardless, we’ve all been there.

And whether it turned out positively or negatively, it makes a point that can’t be ignored or undervalued when trying to create an accessible and inclusive world, and it’s the one, undeniable condition that holds us back from reaching it:

We need to work together to make it happen.

Unite As One People

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. / If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. / And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. / If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? / But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. / If all were a single member, where would the body be? / As it is, there are many parts, / yet one body. / The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” / On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, / and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, / which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, / that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. / If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” — I Corinthians 12:14-26

The Apostle Paul wrote these words two thousand years ago, yet, it amazes me how every verse in the Bible can apply to life today in 2022.

Some may find it a bit ironic, but I find it entirely fitting to use a body as the image of unity to talk about people with disabilities.

The body is the perfect image for how people need to come together to achieve accessibility, equality and inclusion. Able-bodied, disabled, people of all different backgrounds and experiences, need to come together and bring their unique gifts and abilities.

I wrote a poem as a teenager which is too cringy to post here, but it was inspired by the Bible passage above. Called “I’m a Hand, What Are You?” I likened myself to a hand because of my skill with the written word, and I asked my readers [who I believe have only ever been my parents], what part you see yourself as and what you bring to the body.

And I’m going to ask the same question now: What do you bring to the fight for accessibility and equality?

Disabled people are still fighting for accessibility and equality in 2022, which means there is clearly something missing. It isn’t that we are incapable or dependent on others, not because of our disabilities, but simply because we are human.

Humans were created to need each other. We were never meant to be alone. That’s why we crave community, friendships, relationships and connection so deeply. It’s a human need that is in each and every one of us, and with so many things that divide us, this is one thing that humans everywhere can understand and share.

More than asking for physical accommodations, we’re asking for relationship. We need allies, people who see our value and are willing to step out of their comfort zones and fight alongside us.

Of course, our goal is to increase accessibility in our communities for people with all kinds of disabilities, but we are also striving to change the attitudes around disability. Don’t you see? The one leads into the other: when people believe disabled people are worth it, making the world accessible for them becomes a value and not an inconvenience or an accommodation.

But this doesn’t mean that there won’t be challenges. It also is not a guarantee of reaching the goal: after all, we are only humans, and humans are immensely flawed creatures, and even working together does not guarantee success. (The Tower of Babel, anyone?] Because really, what do you get when you put a bunch of imperfect humans together?

Life.

Not exactly the best punch line, but true nonetheless.

But challenges and all, I believe the fight is worth it and I believe we can accomplish great things if we work together. I don’t write to further divide able-bodied people from people with disabilities; we are all people, and my deepest hope and passion is to work to close that divide.

But I am only one person and one voice in the fight. Will you help? Will you be an ally and fight for equality with us?

And in the words of a teenaged Rhianna:

“We all have different parts to play
It’s what God wants us to do.
But still one question I have now:
I’m a hand, what are you?”

[CRINGE!]

Well, my friends, there’s one more post in our series. Stay tuned to find out what Y is all about!

A WOMAN SAID SHE WOULD HAVE HAD AN ABORTION IF SHE KNEW HER DAUGHTER WOULD BE BLIND — A MINI MEMOIR

Disclaimer: This story deals with the subject of abortion. There is no explicit or graphic content, but if reading about abortion is difficult or triggering for you, I’d encourage you to think carefully about whether you want to continue reading or choose something else that I’ve written.
This is a true story that happened while I was in my second year of university. By telling this story, I am speaking up for the unborn children whose lives are ended due to disability. I am not seeking to debate or argue, so please leave such comments out of the comment section. Thank you.


My heart pounds and the tears sting my eyes. My partner reaches for me and I collapse into him. The room is quiet as the other pro-life club members look on in stunned silence, watching for my reaction. But I can’t react yet. I can only hold on to my partner for dear life. Life that had unknowingly hung in the balance for a girl just like me.

I meet her on the way to my health class as I crunch the leaves with a childlike joy. Upon seeing my white cane, she says, “I have a blind daughter. Can I ask you a question?”

“Absolutely! I’m Rhianna,” I say, offering her my hand.

“My daughter is only nine now, but I want her to have a good education. Seeing you here, I presume it works, but I don’t know how. Will she be able to do university?” She sounds both hopeful and apprehensive.

I want to hug her. She doesn’t know the ins and outs of post-secondary education with a disability, but who does until they’re faced with it head-on? I’m just so happy that she’s taking the time to find out.

We stand on the sidewalk, students bustling past as I detail my university experience — how I receive electronic textbooks, the accommodations provided for students for disabilities and the support offered by the Disability Resource Center on campus.

“Thank you,” she says, a genuine relief in her voice.

“No problem. Happy to help.” I say, and I run to my kinesiology lecture for which I am now almost late.

An hour later, in the pro-life club meeting, I excitedly relay my conversation with the woman with the blind daughter. “She doesn’t know much about blindness, but she’s determined to learn what she needs to for her daughter,” I say.

It makes me think of my parents, not knowing anything of disability until their four-year-old daughter gets diagnosed with bilateral eye cancer and then all are thrust into this new, unknown world. And with everything new and unfamiliar facing their family, they did the best they could—which was pretty great. I smile. My parents are awesome.

Valerie enters the room with a summary of her conversations around campus about the student body’s perspectives on the pro-life/pro-choice debate.

“I talked to this woman who has a blind daughter,” she says.

“I met her,” I say. “We had such a good conversation.”

“She told me that if she had known her daughter would be blind, she would have had an abortion.”

The silence is like thunder, but it can’t compare to my heart. How can this be? She would have aborted her own daughter? She was so determined to give her daughter a good life, yet she would have had an abortion and taken away that life by choice? And all because she was blind?

My mind starts spinning. Would my parents have aborted me had they known I would be diagnosed with cancer and be blind for the rest of my life? I know in my heart the answer is no, but the thought makes me sick. My parents may not have made that choice, but others have, and still might.

And now, all I want to do is hold this nine-year-old girl and tell her that she is enough, that she’s loved and she will have a good life.

After the semester, I leave the pro-life club, not because my position changed but because I’m not in a place where I’m ready to have these conversations and hear someone’s brutal honesty about people’s perceptions of the value of life, and particularly, disabled lives. Because I know that woman’s view is all too common, and it won’t be the last time I hear the same sentiments.

I just hope that woman’s daughter never has to hear it, especially from her own mother.

ANNOUNCING THE AUTHORS WITH DISABILITIES SHOWCASE!

When I mentioned to a friend that I was switching from posting on the blog twice a week to every other week to try and ease my mental stress, I was met with the exact validation I needed to hear: “Balance is the key.”

But balance is a very hard thing to do well.

And while I am trying to keep to a schedule, I’ve been sidelined by other blog-related projects that have me super distracted and super excited. And one of these is ready to be announced… today!

Please welcome to the blog … The Authors with Disabilities Showcase!

July is Disability Pride Month, and though I’ve kept quiet about this specific celebration on the blog, I’ve been celebrating hard. And this online bookstore is one of the ways I am choosing to celebrate this month and all year round.

The Authors with Disabilities Showcase [AWDS], came out of a desire to showcase the talent in the disability community. A place for only us to be center stage, a place where our stories are on top. I wanted to create a space where we can go to learn, discover and connect with someone else’s story of disability, because each story is as important and unique as the person who wrote it.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished on this blog. No matter how many subscribers I have or how many clicks I get, I’m proud, because I’m doing what I’m so passionate about and know deep-down that it’s what I need to do. But I’m just as proud of every other person with a disability out there who has told their story and is working to create a better world for us all.

That’s whose stories you can read here. And I sincerely hope that you do take some time to browse the bookstore and find something to read. You never know what difference it could make or what friend you could find in these pages.

Check it out here! And don’t forget to check back frequently as I’ll be continually adding to the collection.

Happy reading!

A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART FOUR: YOU SAY ENTITLED, I SAY EQUALITY

Please read A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART THREE: MOTHER MINISTRY, HER CHILDREN, AND THEIR CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP before continuing.

”Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – I Thessalonians 5:18

Corrie ten Boom, and her sister, Betsie, put this verse into practice in the very direst of circumstances—while in a Nazi-controlled concentration camp in World War II. Read her story in her book, The Hiding Place, or listen as a dramatized radio drama by Focus On The Family.

How terrible it would be to find even one thing to be thankful for in a concentration camp! I’m continually encouraged by Corrie and Betsie’s attitude of thankfulness and I try (and often fail) to adopt it for myself.

On the inaugural day of a week-long girls getaway, it became my mantra as everything seemed to be going wrong. From twisting my ankle, taking transit in the rain for seven hours with multiple missed or late buses, losing my credit card, winding up in emergency for my foot, and getting excruciating menstrual cramps, I repeated “give thanks in all circumstances” through the day. And though it didn’t change my circumstances, it changed my attitude.

Thankfulness can be a tricky concept. Many a disabled person can regale you with experiences where, when trying to explain the challenges they face living with disabilities, they are told to “just be thankful.” That same sentiment echoes in my brain when considering the system that both gives financial support for disabled people in British Columbia, and also takes it away, which, in doing so, puts the disabled person in financial stress. Ironic, isn’t it

But there’s one glaring problem with this response, and it’s this, that in telling a disabled person to be thankful for what they have, you imply that they are entitled if they ask for more.

If we are less than enthusiastic about the amount of income we receive from the Ministry, and even insinuate that the amount should be higher, we are perceived as entitled. If we want more, then we’re dissatisfied with what we have, and maybe even greedy. We expect too much, and think that we’re more deserving than we really are.

But hear me, oh please hear me now: This is not an issue of entitlement, but an issue of equality.

As a disabled person, I’m not being entitled to expect equitable treatment and support.

It is not entitlement to want enough money to supplement my husband’s income that allows us to sufficiently cover our living expenses.

Disabled people are not being given special treatment if they receive disability income support.

And there is one more misconception I’d like to clear up: Disability support is not a handout. It isn’t money given at will so that disabled people don’t have to work. It’s compensation to help sustain us month to month as we search for employment in a society in which it is very challenging for disabled people to obtain. We are not greedy, or lazy, and I’d wager that each individual receiving it would choose not to be reliant on it if they had a choice.

But the fact does remain that many people are in need of it for any number of reasons. And they should never feel shame or embarrassment at being in receipt of this support. It’s been my lifeline for years now, and I don’t know how my life would have unfolded without it.

But should disabled people be thankful for this sum of money that is, at times, laughable, because how does the government deem $375 enough to cover shelter costs for a single person?

Yes. We should be thankful that the Canadian government does provide a system for supporting its disabled citizens. The support we receive keeps many disabled people afloat, and acts as their only source of income. There are places and systems that don’t give, but take from its citizens. So yes, I am very thankful to live in a country that provides for people like me.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t criticize or speak out about its flaws or discriminations. If we keep quiet, nothing will change. And striving towards a positive change is what this series, and this blog, seek to do with each word written. Of course it’s uncomfortable and even hurtful at times, but that is because I’m addressing issues in a flawed world. But nothing will change if we don’t raise our voices.

And this blog is my voice. I hope that through this mini-series, you’ve been able to hear me, and hear not only the words I’ve said but the person behind those words. Because I am not the only one whose reality I have just stripped bare. This is life for many, many Canadians, and though every situation is individual, there is one commonality that binds us: Every disabled person deserves equality.

And my hope is that through more and more disabled people speaking up, we will grow ever closer to achieving it.

A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART THREE: MOTHER MINISTRY, HER CHILDREN, AND THEIR CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP

Please read A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART TWO: HOW TO HAVE YOUR COMMON-LAW CAKE AND EAT IT TOO [BUT WHY I DIDN’T] before continuing.

After a lengthy process of phone calls, office visits and mountains of paperwork, the drama of getting married in the eyes of the Ministry was complete. My surname was changed to match my husband’s, and he was added to my profile. We received reimbursement for our security deposit since it put us in “financial stress.” And, to our great surprise and utter relief, we also received a month of back payments to account for our substantial increase in rent.

My husband rested his head on my shoulder and we both let out deep sighs of relief. With a move, a possible job change, bills to pay, and dreams we want to fulfill as a newlywed couple, it’s reassuring to know we can make this month’s rent.

And yet, it grates under my skin the fact that working a full-time job at minimum wage, I would earn more money than what the Ministry provides to disabled people on permanent support. And with minimum wage set to increase, the difference is even more distinct. Yet, in a society that is still glaringly discriminatory against people with disabilities, finding work with which to support myself and my husband is a prospect I’ve grown bitter about—I can’t dare to hope for it because I know I’ll be disappointed yet again.

So I go back to the Ministry, month after month:

  • Yes, I am still in need of support.
  • Yes, I am still searching for employment.

It isn’t dissimilar to a parent-child dynamic in my mind:

A child is growing up, eager to spread their wings and fend for themselves in the world. Follow your dreams, fall on your face, and get back up again. It’s the only way you learn. And the cycle repeats itself over and over again until life itself is over.

But sometimes, parents don’t want to let go. They can’t let go. They know the thirst for freedom and independence their child has—it’s the same freedom they chased when they were young—but now, on the other side, it’s hard to let go and grant the independence that will transition their child from a dependent youth into a well-rounded, self-sufficient adult. And the struggle persists between parent and child, a struggle for freedom, control, independence and ultimately, life itself.

Okay, so it’s a flawed example. For starters, unlike the Ministry, parents usually want the best for their children even when it’s difficult. And though I’m speaking about financial dependence and not emotional or relational control in a familial context, my point remains: Children want to be set free, to experiment, fail, learn, grow, and not be under their parents’ authority.

And that is the sum of what I long for as a child of Mother Ministry. But to my chagrin, I’m dependent on her support to do that.

But I long to be free of the Ministry’s grasp, not to be dependent on the money that drops into my bank account every month which for years, has been my only means of survival. And even though I am married now, we are still dependent on it, as rent has increased, utilities have increased and the cost of a household of two costs more than we expected. In short, we need the Ministry’s money to make it.

But I long to claw my way out of the government’s hold, to follow my dreams, fall on my face and get back up again… Just like everyone else. I don’t want to need their support. I want to be a self-sufficient adult, earning my own money to put food on the table for my husband and I to enjoy together each night. I want to work and be productive, and believe that the work I do is worthy of monetary compensation, and feel a camaraderie with the majority of the world who go to work, earn a paycheck and come home, knowing that they worked for it. I want to use the drive and ethics and principles that my parents taught me, and that I want to pass down to my own kids.

They say not to bite the hand that feeds you. But whether I like it or not, I need the sustenance the government offers to make it. And don’t think I’m not grateful. But I’m despairing of the relationship that leaves me stuck, reliant, but unable to escape.

All right, so I won’t bite. But what did a nibble hurt anyone?

Read this next: A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART FOUR: YOU SAY ENTITLED, I SAY EQUALITY

A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART TWO: HOW TO HAVE YOUR COMMON-LAW CAKE AND EAT IT TOO [BUT WHY I DIDN’T]

Please read A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART ONE: WHEN I SAID I DO, THE GOVERNMENT SAID WE DON’T HAVE TO ANYMORE before continuing.

I got married.

And with that, my husband and I prepared for a unique financial situation—the inevitable loss of my disability income. But, there was a possible escape, a way to have my cake [ahem, income] and eat it, too.

Enter common-law relationships.


I grew up in a solid Christian home and as an adult, I still choose to hold to those values and beliefs. And I have always dreamed of getting married and having a godly, Christ-centered marriage. But by the time my husband and I met, it was clear that we had to make a choice between my financial stability and my longing for a godly [and legal] marriage. And I wasn’t the first to face this dilemma.

In British Columbia, the Ministry slashes a disabled person’s disability income once they get married. Because, as we all know, disabled people marry rich, financially secure partners with no money woes or debt to pay off, so it’s totally fine to cut back one partner’s entire income once they say “I do.”

Exaggerated? Maybe. But it’s sure how it feels, considering that is the choice my husband and I faced and now, the consequences we live with.

Let’s take a moment and refresh our memories, shall we?
As a married couple, both partners have to claim every dollar made between them, and each dollar claimed is a dollar less that can be received through monthly disability support once the income threshold for a couple [$18,000] is reached.

However, there is one loophole one can jump through in order to keep both their disability income and a shared life with their partner—living common-law. Many disabled British Columbians are opting for this option rather than legal marriage because as stated, it allows them to live with their partner and keep receiving support payments, which is often that partner’s only means of income.

My husband and I wanted a legal, on-paper, out-loud, God-honouring marriage. But that isn’t to say we didn’t seriously consider foregoing the tradition and simply moving in together and beginning our lives together without the fanfare.

Financial success isn’t everything. But being financially stable is not something to be dismissed, and it has always been a goal for my marriage. And we knew what we were up against: Being disabled is expensive. Caring for a service animal is expensive. And finding a job to pay for these expenses is next to impossible, since too many employers are unwilling to hire people with disabilities in favour of their convenience. Living common-law would at least let me share a home and a life with my partner while contributing to our financial future, whereas legal marriage would ensure a regress in our goals and a slap in my face for doing the right thing.

Now, being married and living with the aftereffects of that choice, I do have to say that I do not regret it. My faith and the values I glean from it are more important. But admittedly, it hurts, knowing that I can’t contribute equally to our financial future, that what I can contribute will be lost in a few months’ time, and that we have to have a “Scary Fund” to keep us afloat when the months without my income arrive.

But this is how it is with the Ministry every time I make a call, go to the office, or claim my husband’s and my income on our monthly report. It’s a slap in the face for doing the right thing, both legally and biblically. I did not hide my marriage nor skirt around it to keep my income, but in following their policies and procedures, I lose my income.

Why?

Because the government system in place to provide for people like me makes us choose between a loving relationship and financial security.

Because God knows, we don’t deserve both.

Read this next: A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART THREE: MOTHER MINISTRY, HER CHILDREN, AND THEIR CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP