At long last Ontario is introducing a new photo identification card that will make it easier for people who do not have a driver's licence to travel, open a bank account, and perform any other activities that require official photo ID. LiveWorkPlay members (citizens who have an intellectual disability) have been suffering from a lack of identification options and desperate for a resolution. This issue is presents barriers to included citizenship in many ways, including difficulty with everything from opening bank accounts to receiving a police reference check for volunteering or employment.
This has been a humiliating situation for people with intellectual disabilities (very few of whom drive) and others who have been forced to call upon someone who does have a driver's license to vouch for them (in a formal sense) with police, banks, and in other photo-ID-required situations. Imagine being excited about a work or volunteer opportunity that requires a police reference check and you can't get it done - it's a bit awkward explaining to those who offered you the position that you haven't been able to get the check done because you don't have acceptable ID!
The card will cost $35 and is valid for five years. This is substially less expensive than acquiring a passport (the only current universally accepted photo ID option for those without a driver's license) and will have the added advantage of acting as proof of address. Providing proof of address is another issue that has been particularly troubling for the large percentage of people with intellectual disabilities who don't own or rent their own homes. While it would be preferable to fix that problem by eliminating the horrible deficit of affordable housing in this country, the new photo card will at least help people who don't live in homes of their own feel a bit more like included citizens.
According to the official Ministry of Transportation web page, the new secure card will be recognized as government-issued identification for Ontarians 16 and over who do not drive (if for some reason you were hoping to have both, you can't - you can have either a driver's license or the new photo card). This new card will of course be of benefit not only to people who don't drive due to a disability, but to people who simply choose not to have a driver's license. It is estimated that about 1.5 million citizens of Ontario could benefit from the photo card.
Ontarians will be able to apply for the photo card at about 20 selected Service Ontario centres across the province by the end of July, and at all 300 locations by 2012. According to the Minstry press release, Ontarians with disabilities, seniors and other advocacy groups provided input on the design and availability of the card.