Nanaimo reconsiders Leap card criteria for disabled adults

NANAIMO – Parks commission agreed to grandfather in disabled adults previously approved for the Leap card program.

A Nanaimo woman who took issue with the city’s tougher stance on recreational assistance is “thrilled” the municipality will look at a new access program for people with permanent disabilities.

Nanaimo’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission decided to keep its criteria for the Leisure Economic Access Policy pass, which helps families in financial need access civic recreational facilities, but has asked staff members to report on the development of an access program for people with permanent disability status. It has also grandfathered in those disabled adults who were previously approved to tap into the Leap card.

The decision comes after the City of Nanaimo was asked to rethink its recreational assistance criteria. Advocates and parents said special needs adults used to be able to show bus passes or a Person with Disabilities slip to become Leap cardholders, which gave them discounts and 50 free admissions to civic facilities each year. But since September, the municipality has asked for the earnings of the entire household, making some low-income adults who live with their parents ineligible for the aid, while peers in group homes or respite care still qualify. According to the city, the  pass was meant to ensure families could access recreational activities and is based on financial need – now parks and rec is enforcing the family income rule. Critics, however, argued that special-needs adults should be judged on their own ability to pay.

Nanaimo resident Debbie Remillard, whose 29-year-old daughter would have no longer qualified for Leap after 11 years, said she is thrilled the commission is looking at having a disabled pass.

“Everyone was just thrilled that they are looking into it and trying to resolve it. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed,” she said.

City staff is expected to return to the commission in the new year with options for a new access card program.