The Disabling Impact of Poverty

Continuing our series of blogs written by folks in Edmonton with lived experience, meet Amy Park.  Amy is a person living with a disability in Edmonton and is a self-proclaimed activist. She expresses her views in her blog on how poverty affects those with disabilities.

Amy Park

Amy Park

I believe poverty is the biggest barrier for people with disabilities. Poverty prevents people from a happy, healthy and positive quality of life. It can make a person feel worthless, alone and like they cannot achieve or attain the things they want to in life - or at least that is how it has made me feel. I have lived independently with a disability for six years now. For much of that time, I had a job which made affording the necessities a bit easier. I am very fortunate that I am able to work while also living on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH). For people with disabilities who are solely living on AISH, life can be a treacherous challenge. While AISH was recently raised from $1588 to $1685, that is only a $97 increase and ultimately does not significantly benefit those who rely on it. People with disabilities are still living far below the poverty line.

I have been fortunate enough that when I quit my job recently, my father was able to help me out financially. Without his extra help, I wouldn’t be able to afford my one-bedroom apartment, food or bills. Not only does living below the poverty line affect people’s ability to afford life’s necessities, but it also denies them a social life. For me, the lack of a social life is truly the worst part of living in poverty. I can feel so isolated, which isn’t good for my mental health. Not being able to afford to go enjoy a movie or concert is truly dehumanizing.

Living in poverty can directly affect a person’s ability to pursue their personal goals. My dream is to create documentaries about marginalized groups in society. I have struggled to find a way to make this dream a reality with my limited income. While I know there are other options and avenues to explore, to know I do not have funds readily available makes my dream seem next to impossible. I am very lucky to have people in my life that are helping me achieve my dream and encouraging me to push forward, however not everyone is this fortunate. Solid support systems can be hard to come by and can lead to more feelings of worthlessness or being incapable.

I am a firm believer that forcing people to live in an impoverished state is a violation of our basic human rights. When part of the population suffers from a low quality of life, whether it be living in unsafe and unsanitary housing or unable to afford nutritious food, that has a lasting effect on all parts of our society. Food banks, shelters and low income housing are available, however those are not solutions, they are band-aids. The government has a responsibility to its citizens to ensure they have the ability to live the best life they can. Resources should be available for those in need so that they too can have a high standard of living and a positive quality of life.

Poverty needs to end, and putting short term solutions in place is not the answer. It is my hope that we can soon abolish poverty because all people deserve to live with dignity.