Friday, December 2, 2016

Welcome to the My Becker's Story blog!

Welcome to the My Becker's Story blog!

Join me as I share my Becker Muscular Dystrophy Story.


My name is Brad Miller and I was diagnosed with Becker Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 10, a condition which limits my ability to walk and gets progressively worse over time. I created the My Becker's Story blog in 2010 to share my story and to help raise awareness about Muscular Dystrophy. Along with sharing my story I also raise awareness about accessibility and the issues people with disabilities face. When it comes to the My Becker's Story blog even though the focus is on Becker's Muscular Dystrophy I also want to encourage those affected by other conditions even other forms of Muscular Dystrophy to join in as well. I truly believe when we join "Together" we can make a difference in our communities and raise even more awareness about Muscular Dystrophy and the issues people with disabilities face. The main focus behind the My Becker’s Story blog is to tell my story in hopes that it will somehow help those living with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy, as well as their families and friends.

What people are saying about the My Becker's Story blog:


"Hi there, I also suffer from BMD. Just read the blog and the first half is like reading my personal history!!"

"I ran across your spot today, you sure have a lot on here I will have to check in a lot. I also have BMD and everything you say resonates deeply."

"I am also in my mid-30's with Becker's from the UK so thought i'd join and say hello! Struggling with all the same things as mentioned in the blog!"

"I am new to this group. Just want to say it is nice to meet people who understand."

 "I love your blog and it is nice to know there are others out there facing the same challenges as I do each and every day."

If you would like to read my personal story about growing up with Becker Muscular Dystrophy please click on the image below.


When it comes to living with Becker's Muscular Dystrophy I intend to take what I have been through in my life and some how use it to help those going through a similar situation. When it comes down to it the main idea behind My Becker’s Story is to help those like me who are living with Muscular Dystrophy, by creating a place for us to connect. I truly believe that we are in this "Together". And I believe that with every one’s help that together we can help raise awareness about Muscular Dystrophy around the world.
  

Laps for Muscular Dystrophy

Laps 4 MD Making a difference - One lap at a time.
 Along with sharing my story I also aim to make a difference in my community. The goal is to have a positive impact on the lives of others affected by Muscular Dystrophy. As a long time Motorsports fan in 2014 I founded Laps 4 MD - a network of professional racers who donate $1 from every lap they lead in support of Muscular Dystrophy Canada. I am truly thankful for everyone supporting the cause helping to make a difference in the lives of those affected by Muscular Dystrophy. To learn more please (Click Here)

Thank you for visiting the My Becker's Story blog!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The steps it took for me to find my first full-time job

When it comes to living with the physical limitations a disability can bring some may believe this would take away one's ability to work. This is simply untrue as many people with disabilities work part-time & even full-time jobs and are perfectly capable of providing for themselves and their families. Now it isn't always an easy task finding your first job, as having a disability can bring about some unique challenges. Today I aim to share with you a few of the ups & downs I faced when it came to looking for my first full-time job. You will soon find out that a little perseverance goes a long way and eventually hard work pays off.

The Employment Supports Program: Step One


A real benefit to those with disabilities here in Ontario seeking a job is the Employment Supports Program. This is a voluntary program offered to those receiving income support from the Ontario Disability Supports Program. Taking advantage of this program offered to me helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to finding a suitable form of employment. Over a three week period I take part in aptitude testing which also helps you to discover a few of your natural talents. Many which can be a real benefit to those seeking employment. Once the testing was complete I was provided with my results and ended up with a few suggestions on what types of work I should pursue.  

Working with local Employment Service Provider: Step Two 


After my time ended taking part in the Employment Supports Program the next step for me was to choose a local Employment Service Provider, who would then take me through the next steps of looking for a job. Their main focus from the start was to help me put together a professional looking resume. The biggest issue though was my lack of work experience which left me with a bare bones resume. Next up they quickly moved on to teaching me how to search for a job online. Our focus right away was on applying for call centre jobs - one of the recommendations that came from my time in the Employment Supports Program. This is actually one form of employment that many with physical disabilities pursue. Unfortunately my journey finding work at a call centre took a lot longer than I had hoped. After a year of applying for call centre jobs with a 0% success rate, I was becoming more than just a little frustrated. Eventually we had to reach out to a local temping agency for help. Right away they were able to set me up with a short term contract position at a local call centre.

Day One: Training for my first job


 About a week later I found myself arriving for my first day of training, I wasn't even anxious about it as I was actually excited. Unfortunately when I arrived for training things didn't go as smoothly as I hoped. What happened when I first arrived is that I messed up when reaching for the front door. You see I went to grab the door after someone went in ahead of me, to my surprise it closed so quickly resulting in me accidentally slamming my thumb in the door. Next thing I know I found myself in so much pain that the thought crossed my mind for me to just call it a day and head home. But after getting this far and working so hard I couldn't just give up. I simply decided to push through all the pain and take part in training while my thumb started to bruise up turning black & blue. Thinking back I am glad I stuck with this great opportunity as the work experience I gained gave me something to finally add to my lack luster resume. 

When the going gets tough, the tough get going  


After the contract position ended I was on a bit of a high, feeling confident that it would take me no time to find another job. Without any delay I started applying for other positions with the same employer at one of there other call-centre locations. It didn't take too long before I was called in for an interview. Unfortunately things didn't go as planned when I wasn't hired for the job. Though I was a little disappointed I didn't let this get me down. Thankfully about a month later another position became available with the same employer, this time at a location much closer to where I lived. So I applied for the position, again I was called in for an interview but this time ended up failing their mandatory typing test. So for the second time I didn't get the job. Yet another set back but I wasn't ready to just give up. So at this point I simply went out and bought a typing program for my computer to focus on improving my skills. So for the third time only a few months later I applied for the same position again. This time I aced their typing test resulting in me securing my very first full-time job. The next thing I know just a few weeks later I find myself starting training. Thankfully my training turned out to be a lot of fun. Unfortunately though the fun times spent in training just flew by. It took just four weeks before I found myself working a full-time job. Sure there were days filled with challenging moments especially when it came to dealing with irate customers, but to my surprise I handle this pretty well. I am proud to say that I never let the challenges get me down. I was simply happy to have a job which I fought very hard for. 

Sadly the benefits of working a full-time job didn't last long  


At this point I was truly benefiting from having this full-time job. I started feeling like a real success story, as it felt good no longer having to rely on income support from the Ontario Disability Supports Program. Best of all things were going very well for me financially. I was really enjoying my new life as I was truly benefiting financially. I felt like a contributing member of society. Unfortunately, this didn't last long as in my second year of employment I found myself suffering from a work-related injury. It started one day when I left work due to the pain I was feeling in both arms. The next day I went to see my doctor and after an ultrasound I was diagnosed with Tendinitis. A debilitating condition that affects the tendons and muscles that help move the shoulder joint. It was discovered that I suffered a repetitive strain injury. Which left me in excruciating pain. So for the next two years I had to be put on modified duties while seeing a physiotherapist twice a week. Eventually my work-related injury was blamed on the fact that I have Becker's Muscular Dystrophy. It was at that point I was cut off from receiving workers compensation from the WSIB, that also meant no more physiotherapy. So my condition only continued to worsen leaving me to make the tough decision of ending my call centre career. Eventually I found myself re-applying to receive income support the Ontario Disability Supports Program. Only five years after pursuing a career. I guess you can say things really didn't go as planned when it came to me working, but one thing I am proud of is that having a disability never kept me from pursuing a career. That is why even today after all I have been through I still encourage those with disabilities who can to pursue finding some form of suitable employment. As it will teach you a lot about life an how the world works and if you are successful you will be able to make a good living and provide for yourself or family.     

The reality for some looking for a job with a physical disability


Unfortunately, many people with disabilities still do face discrimination by some employers, even with college & university educations, but I encourage everyone to never give up. After all it took me a year and a half and multiple tries before gaining a full-time job. Thankfully we now live in a time when employers attitudes towards workers with disabilities are changing. This means the possibilities of you finding a job are getting better every day. 

A message for those unable to work due to physical disability 


Now if you are unable to work and are currently receiving income support for having a disability that is nothing to be ashamed of. After all depending on the severity of some physical disabilities not everyone is able to work.

In my situation I am truly thankful for the income support the Ontario Disability Supports Program provides. My only hope is that one day the rates of income support we receive match the true cost of living. I also hope that one day we see major changes when it comes to the treatment of spousal earning as it shouldn't be used to reduce my income support. I remain hopeful that some day soon this does change. 


Related Posts:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Becker's Story has been viewed over 200,000 times!

Over the last 7 years of sharing my story I have made many good friends and have even had the privilege of meeting others also affected by Becker's and other forms of Muscular Dystrophy. Being able to meet other's has helped to prove to me that we are all in this together. That is why I want to thank everyone who supports the My Becker's Story blog and my efforts to share my story. In the end, it’s all about raising awareness, not to bring the focus on myself but on all of us as a community.

So today I would like to thank everyone for their support of the My Becker's Story blog!


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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Joys & Challenges the Christmas Season Brings

When it comes to the Holiday Season there are many joys that come along with celebrating Christmas with family & friends. As we enter the month of December the sounds of Christmas songs now play on many radio stations. As we all know this is the time of year most kids really look forward to, after all at Christmas the focus tends to be on the children. As a child for me Christmas was the most amazing season and yes the focus was on all the presents I was going to receive. Then as we grow up we imagine being parents and watching our own children experience the joys of this season. I am sure every parent out there enjoys seeing their children's faces on Christmas morning. I do hope that every parent out here knows how truly lucky you are. After all for some of us we could only dream of being so lucky. This is when we get into why for some this joyous season can also be a difficult time of the year. 

When it comes to growing up in life we quickly learn that things really never go as planned. In learned this back in 2009 when my wife and I were about to welcome our first baby girl into the world. We had just celebrated a great Christmas, then just a week later as we entered the new year found ourselves in the hospital surrounded by nurses desperately searching for our babies heartbeat. Next thing you know we are dealing with the devastating news that we had lost our baby girl, just a few weeks before the delivery date. That was the first of two still births as a year later we found ourselves in the same month in the exact same situation. These were two devastating blows two years in a row right after Christmas, so I am sure you can understand why for me and my wife this is such a difficult time of year. Even after six years what we faced brings about many tears as we have yet to have a child of our own. That is why I do hope that any parent reading this right now knows how lucky they are. Now over the last few years I have done my best to accept the challenges of life but this is a hard one to overcome. I really feel for my wife as I wish there was something I could do for her, as Christmas brings back a lot of memories of what we have both lost.

Still we do our best to enjoy this time of year, but trying to pretend everything is fine is getting a lot more difficult as the years go by. This year also feels a lot different as we simply lack any motivation to decorate or even put up a Christmas tree. In all honesty maybe I should even be sharing this as it might embarrass my wife. But I know there may be others out there who are facing the same difficulty in dealing with the holiday season, especially those who have faced a similar loss. My only motivation behind writing this blog post to show others facing the same challenges that they are not alone.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A look at: The Ontario Disability Supports Program

When it comes to people living with disabilities I am sure you will agree that we all have the right to get married or start a relationship without penalty. Sadly here in the Province of Ontario our Government has policies in place that actually end up punishing people with disabilities for getting married or for just living with someone they are in a relationship with. These policies govern the Ontario Disability Supports Program which was originally created to help those with disabilities in need of income support. The issue we are addressing today is their treatment of spousal earnings and the negative affect this is having on the lives of those with disabilities currently relying on income support from the Ontario Disability Supports Program.

Here are the facts:


1) Spousal earnings are clawed back under current ODSP regulations. This forces non-disabled or working spouses to assume the full financial responsibility of the person with a disability. A result of ODSP benefit payments being made on behalf of families rather than individuals. Structuring the benefit unit in this way has many negative consequences for people who receive ODSP. As this ends up “stigmatizing and robs recipients of their dignity and control of their own lives.” As you can see the current system penalizes those who live with a spouse and prevents many from forming new relationships that would be beneficial to their health and well being. 

2) Currently the base amount of income support married couples can receive where the non-disabled spouse is working is $1688, this before Spousal earnings are clawed back. They will also receive the $100 work-related benefit due to one spouse working bringing their rate of income support up to $1788. Another benefit they are eligible to receive is the special diet allowance which can also increase their income support by another $100-$200. Meaning some couples may be eligible to receive up to $1904 monthly. While this might sound good many actually will never even come close to receiving this amount once Spousal earnings are clawed back. 
3) Once Spousal earnings are clawed back many actually see their income support reduced by 50-60% each and every month. Resulting in many seeing their income support eligibility drop drastically from $1688 to only $800 of income support per month. As you can see in many cases, the treatment of spousal earnings ensures that families cannot earn enough income to escape poverty. This burden compromises the independence of people with disabilities and also weakens the capacity of the family unit overall to achieve and maintain an adequate standard of living. Not only does this place added stress on the relationship it also keeps some from starting a relationship with someone because they have a disability and receive income support from the Ontario Disability Support Program.

What the Ontario Government needs to do:

 The Government of Ontario needs to stop placing financial limits on those with disabilities simply because they get married or start a relationship. The time is now to make the Province of Ontario a place that allows people with disabilities who are on ODSP to equally contribute and be involved in every aspect of marriage even when it comes to finances. That is why the Province of Ontario must add Spousal earnings to the list of "exempt" forms of income. After all spousal earnings should NOT affect the rate of income support anyone receives from the Ontario Disability Supports Program.
"

The time is NOW for the Ontario Government to ensure equality in marriage for all even those with disabilities! 


What people are saying about the treatment of spousal earnings by the Ontario Disability Supports Program:


"This is a disgrace and another example of indifferent, callous government bureaucracies pinching pennies on the backside of the truly needy & deserving!"

"This is truly INSANE, can't believe how this system appears to work. I knew it had problems, but this is worse than I thought. We appear to be going backwards with social programs not advancing.Ontario government please find a heart!"

"My marriage will not survive the financial stress. I have so much guilt in all of this, all I'm asking for is the dignity to financially help provide for my family." 

"I can tell you while I was married, this put a great deal of stress on the household that eventually ended our marriage."

"I am applaud, how can a person like me enjoy life with a person that has accepted me for who I am. Now when she see's this, she's not going to want to marry me!"

"I think I read somewhere, that 90% of people on ODSP are single due to their atrocious rules...it's very discriminatory."

"This can lead to a person in an abusive marriage having no way to leave."

"I went on ODSP 4 years ago at that time I was happily married for 16 years and enjoyed life, I am now separated living in a room. I am getting worse instead of better." 

"It's heartbreaking. I have been with my high school sweetheart for almost 11 years now. but we can't live together and we can't get married. it's soul crush and because of this I now fight with depression and a daily basis."

"I am reading about this literally a week from moving in with my girlfriend and her daughter.. I was overjoyed! As overjoyed as a person suffering from depression and several sleeping disorders, and deemed unfit to work could likely ever be. I was starting a family. Now all I feel is a knot in my stomach"

"This article has left me in tears. Finally I feel like I am not the only one who seems to see things as they are. My exact thoughts and words have been voiced."

"I am really glad to see that i am not the only one with this bullshit happening to them"

"I am in love with an ODSP recipient. I accept his limitations but I cannot expect him to be dependent on me and have his standard of living decline as well as his self-confidence."

"We all need to come together and fight these ridiculous "rules" that we're all getting screwed by. I'm totally committed to figuring all this out for everyone in need!"

 "I wish everyone would join the fight to fix this very very broken system."

Some Good News!


As of January 1st, 2017 the Ontario Government will be removing Child Support Payments from the list of income sources used to reduce the amount of income support those receive from ODSP. A major win for those receiving Child Support Payments. 

This leaves me very hopeful that a change regarding spousal earnings might actually just be around the corner. But this may still be a few years off that is why we need to keep the pressure on the Minister of Community and Social Services The Hon. Dr. Helena Jaczek and the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne!

What we need to do


Send e-mails to the Minister of Community and Social Services The Hon. Dr. Helena Jaczek & to the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne 

Simply Copy & Paste:

The Government of Ontario needs to stop placing financial limits on those with disabilities simply because they get married or start a relationship. The time is now to make the Province of Ontario a place that allows people with disabilities who are on ODSP to equally contribute and be involved in every aspect of marriage even when it comes to finances. That is why the Province of Ontario must add Spousal earnings to the list of "exempt" forms of income. After all spousal earnings should NOT affect the rate of income support anyone receives from the Ontario Disability Supports Program.

Send your e-mails to the Minister of Community and Social Services The Hon. Dr. Helena Jaczek at jaczek.mpp@liberal.ola.org 

To e-mail the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne visit https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx 

After this be sure to Share this Blog Post with everyone you know!

This is the best way for all of us to make sure that our voice is heard loud & clear!


IMPORTANT: If you are currently receiving ODSP and are planning to marry or are in a common law relationship please call your local ODSP office. This is the best way for you to confirm how this might impact your income support.

Parts of this blog post contains information from the ODSP Action Coalition's report entitled "Dignity, Adequacy, Inclusion: Rethinking the Ontario Disability Support Program"

Related Posts:
Non-disabled spouses fobidden from saving for Retirement when in relationship with someone on ODSP &
Living with a Disability & Suffering a Work related Injury in Province of Ontario