Leisure Access Program

The Leisure Access Program (LAP) has been around in various forms for a while now.  It is designed to allow low income families to access recreation programs at a reduced cost. The program is administered by your local city government and the rules and application procedures vary from district to district.

The City of Vancouver Leisure Access Program has taken a step forward by now allowing the entire family with a disabled child (up to the age of 17) to qualify for the LAP regardless of income. Hopefully other municipalities will follow Vancouver’s lead and open their programs to children with disabilities.

With summer quickly approaching, now would be a great time to contact your local recreation department and find out what is available in your area.

If you know of other districts that allow access to this program to kids with disabilities, could you please let us know in the comment section.

Fitness and Arts Tax Credit

Sadly 2016 is the last tax year that we will be able to claim the Fitness and Arts Tax Credit. They were popular tax credits among parents with disabled children as there was a supplemental credit of $500 for children eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.

Fitness Tax Credit

The maximum eligible amount that may be claimed for 2016 has been reduced to $500 (down from $1,000). The supplemental $500 figure remains intact.

For those who have not claimed this credit before, the amount is increased by $500 as long as at least $100 claimed.  In other words, if you have $200 worth of eligible receipts, the claimed amount would be $700. Most tax software will automatically add the $500 supplement as long as you have indicated that a T2201 has been filed.

Arts Tax Credit

The maximum eligible amount for 2016 has been reduced to $250 (down from $500). The $500 supplement remains intact and works the same as for the Fitness Tax Credit.

The Future

Both of these tax credits will be eliminated for 2017 and sadly the $500 supplement will disappear at the same time.  The Federal Government has not announced any changes that will make up for this loss.

It is true that for most kids there will be an increased amount through the new Canada Child Benefit. This is fine for a typical kid, but there is nothing now to recognize the high barriers that we have getting our children into sports and arts classes.

Federal Budget 2016

I just finished reading through the 2016 Federal Budget and quite frankly they could have done better. I expected a little something for our disabled kids and unfortunately there is nothing positive.

What did we get? Nothing! In fact the government is actually reducing some of the benefits for our kids.

The Fitness Tax Credit and Arts Tax Credit will be cut in half for 2016 and eliminated for future years. Where this really hurts our kids is that we have been able to add $500 to the total as long as we spent $100. This was in recognition of the fact that our kids have high barriers to sports and arts program and frequently need supervision or training to participate. Now our kids are just like the others (as if!).

I’m disappointed with our new Prime Minister. Yes, the previous government definitely had its problems, but at least it was friendly towards persons with disabilities. Some of the enhancements on their watch included:

  • The Registered Disability Saving Plan (RDSP)
  • The Family Caregiver Amount
  • The Fitness Tax Credit with enhancements for disabilities
  • The Arts Tax Credit with enhancements for disabilities

I expected better from this government. Do they not care about the most vulnerable people in our society?

Are you annoyed? Let your local Federal Member of Parliament know about it.

Beyond that, Medicare for Autism Now (MFAN) has an initiative calling for ABA treatment to be universally accessible and covered under Medicare. This is a time sensitive issue and if you want your voice heard, go to their website and see how you can participate.

 

Cineplex Movies

Cineplex Odeon in partnership with Autism Speaks have created a sensory friendly experience for the ASD community.

The screenings feature increased lighting levels, decreased volume and a designated calm area.

The price of admission for each person is the child admission price ($8.99).  Cineplex has also confirmed that you may use this special pricing in conjunction with the Access 2 Card. This card gives free (or discounted rate) entry to a support person.

Venues for the Access 2 card include 95% of the theaters in Canada and many recreational attractions in BC. The cost is $20 and is valid for 5 years.

The first showing of the Sensory Friendly movie is this Saturday (Feb 14) in Langley at 10:30 showing The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.

See you at the movies!

Summertime is here!

Welcome to Summer!

I’m sure many of you are already pining for September, but it’s time to move past denial.
Summer plans for our ASD kids may include ABA Therapy, swim lessons, day camps and overnight camps.
It may be useful to have a think now about how you are going to use all of the summer receipts.
Firstly, you should consider if you can claim child care expenses on your taxes (refer to the CRA information sheet).  Child care expenses are generally the most valuable because they are not claimed as a non-refundable tax credit (at the lowest tax rate), but rather a deduction from income.
For a reminder about Child Care expenses refer to my page Child Care Expenses. In general terms, if both parents are working and the child is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, you may claim up to $10,000 per year.
Child Care expenses for the summer can include:
  • Up to $250 per week for overnight camps (including sports camps)
  • Expense paid to a relative (age 18 or over) for child care
  • Day Camps
  • Sport Camps
  • Day Care centers
Moving past child care expenses, you can look at using your receipts for some combination of the following:
For Gods sake, please don’t spend your summer stewing over tax policy or battling with the AFU. Get outside and enjoy the weather (it’s coming any day now….I hope).  Just have a short think about collecting receipts that you will be able to use later.

Kids Bowl Free

Are you looking for a cheap and fun activity for your child this summer?

Kids Bowl Free is a program that is not disability specific, but will enable your registered child to bowl free, twice a day all summer long.  A Family Pass is available for a one time purchase of $24.95 to enable up to 4 adults (including therapists) to join in the fun.

There are several bowling alleys throughout BC participating in the program.

For more information visit Kids Bowl Free.