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How the Ontario Disability Support Program makes falling in love a challenging proposition

When Tim and Natalie Rose first moved in together, they had no idea that doing so would cause them to lose their income and leave them thousands of dollars in debt.

But that can be the reality for many couples when one or both partners receive assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program, or ODSP.

The pair met just before Tim moved to England to study human-rights law, but they knew there was a connection, so they gave long distance a try.

“We kind of realized as I was leaving for England that we just wanted to be together all the time,” Tim says.

Their relationship lasted the year’s separation, and when Tim returned to his native Toronto, Natalie was looking for a place to live as well.

“We decided to move in together right away, actually, because of disability,” Natalie explained. Tim has cerebral palsy and requires at least a semi-accessible apartment to accommodate his wheelchair. Because of the lack of such apartments in Toronto, he had thought he would have to move into an assisted-living arrangement at first, which would have made it difficult for Natalie to visit him. And Natalie would not have been able to afford an accessible space on her own. “We just thought, you know what, it would just be easier and make more sense to move in together,” she says. Eventually, they found a space that worked.

Tim was supporting himself through ODSP. Unlike Ontario Works, which is designed for short-term assistance, it provides recipients with support for long periods of time — sometimes their whole adult lives. The rates are higher, and there are less stringent clawbacks for things like employment income, gifts, and assets. This is a recognition of the fact that living with a permanent disability is expensive and that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find long-term, stable employment, especially of the kind that will offer the health benefits and prescription drug coverage many people with disabilities need.

Read more: How the Ontario Disability Support Program makes falling in love a challenging proposition

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