Monday, 25 July 2011

Ontario's New Photo Identification Card: A Needed Change

Ontario's new photo identification card
Yesterday, Ontario joined eight other provinces that offer a photo identification card with an address for those over age 16 (not to be confused with the Ontario Health Insurance Plan photo card, which isn't considered photo identification).

Life Without Photo Identification

After my brain AVM surgery, along with the stroke, I also started having seizures - full-body, falling-down, loss-of-consciousness seizures. As far as anyone could tell, they were happening due to scar tissue left in my head after the surgery. Another surgery to remove the scar tissue was discussed, but dismissed for various reasonsen (including the fact that I just couldn't see the point of having another surgery when it was surgery that had caused the scarring to begin with). But because I was having seizures, my driver's license was revoked.

I wasn't prepared for how limiting this was going to be. In some ways, I felt the loss of my driver's license more keenly than I did the restriction of movement on my left side. Even when I was feeling well enough to try and get out of the house a bit, I was dependent on my father for transportation, because there was no public transportation in our town. And when I was well enough to move closer to to town and walk there myself, I was still reliant on rides if I wanted to attend events or see friends who lived even a relatively short distance away. My father and friends have been wonderful about providing rides; even people in town have been great about giving me rides places if they see me on the ride. But it doesn't compare to the freedom of having your own car.

On a purely practical note, not having my driver's license puts me out of the running for most jobs in my field in the area. I was lucky that the most recent agency at which I worked went above and beyond to work with me on the transportation issue; it's been an issue when seeking employment at other agencies.

The Things You Don't Think About

Most people with intellectual disabilities with whom I've worked with don't need a driver's licence to drive, but they feel the inconvenience of not being able to get one as well. This new identity card is going to be great for them.

I didn't know these things, because I was 22 when my license was revoked and then I just used my passport and a phone bill, if necessary...but many of the people I've supported haven't had a passport, and  you need some sort of photo identification to:

  • Open a bank account

  • Vote

  • Rent a video/DVD (depending on store)

  • Book a hotel room

  • Cash a cheque

For youth especially, as they prepare for adulthood (whether they have disabilities or not; plenty of kids without disabilities don't get a driver's license, for various reasons) the first item on the list is especially problematic.

Creating Opportunities

As a person who can't hold a driver's license, I will be applying for this card. I don't like carrying my passport everywhere with me, but I've long been uncomfortable with the idea of having no photo identification. Creating this new photo identification card is a good move for the Ontario government, and an excellent way for people who can't/choose not to have a driver's license to ensure, from the age that people become licensed drivers, that they have access to the other rights enjoyed by people who do have a driver's license.

See for more information on the new photo identification card.

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