Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Return to sender, say disabled

Questionnaire from Canada Post prompts concerns

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As Canada Post switches to community mailboxes from home delivery, it may require people with disabilities to prove they need help getting their mail.

Canada Post has sent out a form it says "may" have to be filled out by a health-care professional -- a doctor, ophthalmologist, occupational therapist, or certified psychologist, for example.

It accompanies another form, a questionnaire customers are to fill out if they want to receive community-mailbox delivery "accommodation."

It asks questions such as why they'd have trouble accessing a community mailbox, what might help, if their disability is permanent and whether anyone else in their household is capable of getting the mail. The forms were sent to concerned customers who responded to Canada Post and its news it was ending home delivery service.

A Canada Post spokesman said the questionnaire will be used by the corporation to "tailor a solution" for individuals with disabilities.

'You have to pass a test to access a public service. To us that is wrong. That is a bad move' -- Carlos Sosa

The Manitoba League of Persons With Disabilities is concerned the Crown corporation will demand medical information to accommodate people.

Requiring people who are often on a fixed income to provide a doctor's note that may cost $50 to prove they need help getting their mail is a barrier, said Carlos Sosa, co-chairman of the Manitoba League of Persons With Disabilities.

"It's also an issue of personal privacy -- why should someone be handing over personal medical information to receive a public service?" Sosa wants to know who will be evaluating that information.

"It's so subjective," said Sosa. "It is a means test. You have to pass a test to access a public service. To us that is wrong. That is a bad move."

People with disabilities that aren't obvious are the ones Jesse Turner is most worried about.

"My condition is very obvious," said Turner, who works as an abilities advocate and uses a motorized wheelchair. "No one is going to deny me accommodation." People suffering with painful fibromyalgia or arthritis that comes and goes, however, have a hard time getting service providers to accommodate them, Turner said.

"That's a portion of our community that has the greatest difficulty. They're often denied access to Handi-Transit when they have those kinds of conditions."

Pain isn't mentioned anywhere on the Canada Post application form, Turner noted. She wants to know who gets to decide if someone with a disability will be accommodated.

"My concern is who is going to make the final judgment call? Me or Canada Post? As a person with a disability, I should be able to make that final decision," said Turner.

Canada Post disagrees.

"At the end of the day, Canada Post will have to make the call," said spokesman Jon Hamilton. He said it's still early in the process of changing over to community mailboxes and the questionnaire about accommodating people with disabilities is part of the process. "What we've learned is... you can't have a one-size-fits-all program."

The questionnaire is being sent out so "we can tailor a solution" for individuals, he said.

Some people can get to the box but have a hard time getting their mail out of it because of dexterity issues, for instance, Hamilton said. For others, the challenge is getting to the mailbox. Canada Post can provide extra keys for family members to get their mail or have their mail redirected to a loved one who can deliver it in person, he said. Maybe once a week Canada Post will clear out the community mailbox and deliver it to them, Hamilton said. "We're working with each individual to find out what works."

People who are concerned about the future of mail delivery and their ability to get it need to speak up, said Sosa with the League for Manitobans With Disabilities.

"Keep up the pressure on Canada Post. Keep up the pressure on your member of Parliament," said Sosa. "What we need is an accessible postal service that takes into consideration the needs of persons with disabilities and all Canadians."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2014 A3

History

Updated on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM CDT: Corrects attribution of pull quote

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