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Alberta should use ‘holistic’ approach to safety standards for people with disabilities: report

Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir speaks to reporters on Oct. 26, 2016.
Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir speaks to reporters on Oct. 26, 2016. Global News

A team tasked with developing new policy alternatives for how the Alberta government approaches safety for people with disabilities submitted its final report to Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir Wedensday.

The report, Supporting Safe and Inclusive Lives, saw the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) Safety Standards Consultation Team speak with more than 2,000 Albertans over the last year about how to allow people with disabilities to lead safer lives while also being treated the same as all other Albertans.

“We, as a team, felt we should never forget that people with disabilities have the right and the opportunity to live in their community of choice while being supported to live safely and in community,” team chair John te Linde told reporters.

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His team presented the government with 11 recommendations that he says call on lawmakers to adopt a more “holistic” view of safety for people with disabilities.

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“Safety is more than just about physical structures – things like fire alarms and that kind of stuff – it’s about people having the necessary supports from properly trained people to live safely in their homes and in community,” te Linde said. “So it’s a much broader approach and perspective to safety than the earlier PDD safety standards regulations were.”

PDD safety regulations were first brought in after a fatality inquiry looked into the death of a woman at her Capilano group home in 2007. Marilyn Lane had Down syndrome and died when she was unable to escape her basement suite when the fire broke out.

Previously proposed standards were subjected to criticism because those with disabilities felt they weren’t involved in drafting them, something the government says is different now.

“The concern we heard loud and clear (is), that safety is broader than that, that regulation was restrictive and was not implemented in consultation so this is the first time that we are hearing from the people whose safety we are talking about,” Sabir said.

READ MORE: Albertans offer input on safety guidelines for people with developmental disabilities

Watch below: Earlier this year, Albertans were encouraged to share their thoughts on how to ensure the safety of people with developmental disabilities. Sarah Kraus filed this report on Feb. 29, 2016.

Albertans supporting people with developmental disabilities
Albertans supporting people with developmental disabilities

The cost burden of implementing safety features was previously placed on landlords, restricting where people were able to live if landlords did not spend the money to make the improvements or if they tried to pass the cost on to renters.

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“When you’re faced with the possibility or the requirement to put in a sprinkler system in a rental suite- that’s very difficult,” te Linde said. “For many of them, they were forced with the option of having to move to somewhere that they couldn’t afford.”

Sabir said the government would take some time to review the recommendations and to decide how best to implement them.

“These consultations require us to look at safety differently.”

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