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Vocational training left out in loosened health orders

The Brandon Sun - 3/4/2021

Another round of loosened health restrictions has left out vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities.

“Some of the decisions they’re making just baffle me, but this one’s bothering me,” said Career Connections executive director Tracy Williams, with audible frustration in her voice.

At greatest issue is Career Connections’ Vocational Development Program, in which 24 people typically take part in training to develop various vocational skills in Brandon.

Funded through the province’s Community Living disABILITY Services, the program caters to people with intellectual disabilities and has been closed since the province’s level red restrictions came into play in mid-November.

Nobody in the program is medically compromised (and therefore more susceptible to COVID-19), Williams said, adding with 3,330 square feet of space, there’s plenty of room for everyone to physically distance.

Participants wear masks at all times and follow health regulations, she said, perplexed as to why they’ve not been allowed to reopen at a time when schools are open for in-class instruction.

“It seems like the province has more faith in a five-year-old going to school and following public health guidelines than an adult with an intellectual disability going to a vocational program,” she said.

“They’re willing, able and wanting to work in the community. The program teaches them the skills — hands-on skills, and everybody wants to be there.”

After a strong push by Williams, the government began allowing eight people into the program on Monday, but restricted this allowance to those in crisis.

They’re people who are “really isolated,” said Williams. “Most of them are in supported independent living, and some of them have had real impacts to their mental health” — points she had to have verified before they were allowed to rejoin the program.

These eight people are now allowed to attend two half-day sessions per week, which Williams said is a step in the right direction but still far from ideal, particularly when paired against various inequalities in current health orders.

Although there has been some leeway with the vocational program, the government has yet to budge in the closure of Avis’s Place drop-in centre, which has been shut down since November.

This is despite efforts to rejig the interior space to allow for physical distancing, including the installation of small tables separated to six feet apart.

“I did so much at the centre to follow the guidelines and they won’t even talk to me about it,” said Williams.

“Anyone with an intellectual disability has as much value as anyone else. They deserve the opportunity to take part in programs that are there to benefit them. It just really bothers me.”


» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB

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