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People with disabilities are being buried in paper!

This article was originally posted on the website of the James McGregor Stewart Society. Re-posted with permission. 

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – In Nova Scotia one of the most pernicious barriers for people with disabilities is simple paperwork.

Buried in the 121 pages of a manual of the Department of Community Services called Disability Support Program Policy is:

6.5 Medical Assessment

6.5.1 An applicant must provide a medical report from an attending physician or nurse practitioner who is familiar with them and their medical history when applying to the DSP.

6.5.2 Applicants are responsible for any costs and fees associated with the medical assessment.  

I don’t know how serious Community Services is about this requirement and whether they will sometimes pay the doctor’s fee.  I do know that doctors charge for filling out the form and that the fee is not set. Many walk-in clinics do not do forms, so if, like thousands of Nova Scotians, you don’t have a family physician, you’re outa luck.  People take these forms to the emergency room in hopes they can get them completed.

A quick search of likely places yields the following government services requiring a medical assessment form – all different.  The list is probably not exhaustive:

Level Department Form Pages Link
Provincial DCS DSP Medical 2 Form
Provincial Service NS Accessible Parking 1 Form
Federal CRA Tax Credit 6 Form
Municipal HRM Access-a-Bus 8 Form
Provincial LAE Student Loan Medical Assessment 8 Form
Provincial Finance Claim 1 Form
Federal Service Canada CPP Disability 4 Form

Imagine you are severely injured at work.  You wake up in the hospital and to get your life back in order you need to file pretty much all these forms.  If your doctor charges $100 a pop, that’s a tidy sum.

Most people in low or no wage jobs don’t have the $50 or $100 it would take to get the Tax Credit form filled out, so they can’t access the Registered Disability Savings Plan.  That means they can’t take advantage of the generous contributions from the Federal Government. That means the province of Nova Scotia is short about $200 million in assets. That’s what you call shortsighted.

The good people at Independent Living Nova Scotia have a new program to encourage use of the Registered Disability Savings Plan.  To be fair, Community Services is sponsoring. But of all the ways government might help, simplifying the forms industry is the easiest and most effective.

It’s clear that a doctor had a hand in designing each of these forms.  They ask similar questions in slightly different ways.

  • Is there an important difference between the Primary Diagnosis box on the DCS form and the comprehensive checklist on the CRA form?  
  • Does Access-a-Bus really need to know if you can walk 175 meters, or is it enough to know that a person meets the detailed definition of ‘markedly restricted in walking’ on the CRA form?

The Federal Tax Credit form is beyond the control of the province.  But it’s useful, comprehensive and detailed, so why not accept it for all provincial purposes?

Administrative streamlining is not one of the many initiatives  in the Government of Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Plan for 2018-2021 but it should be.

Want to help?  Click here to start this email to the Minister of Justice

Dear Minister Furey,

I am concerned that government requirements for many similar medical certificates is a real barrier to people with disabilities.  Please take action to simplify and rationalize this unnecessary bureaucratic hurdle.


Feel free to edit and add your own comments.  Don’t forget to sign!



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