After a decade, the Nova Scotia disability rights advocate was finally allowed to leave the nursing home

Vicky Levack couldn’t believe it when she learned that she was finally leaving her retirement home.

« There are some things I can’t say…because you’ll have to beep it, but believe me, these are all very excited things that should be beeped, » she said.

Levack, 31, has cerebral palsy and has lived at Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax for a decade. When she moved in, she was told it would be like living in a handicapped dorm.

« I was sold a freight bill that wasn’t true, » Levack said. « At first I was on a floor with a lot of people with dementia and other such illnesses. As a result, I was physically attacked by people who didn’t know what they were doing. »

Levack spent his twenties living in a room with a hospital bed. She had to take her meals at fixed times. She stopped inviting people over because she was embarrassed when there were screams and screams from other residents in the hallway.

Nor could Levack provide guests with a place to sit in his room.

« My niece’s visit – she’s five now – but I think it scared her a little. »

Vicky Levack says her room in the nursing home makes her feel like she lives in an institution rather than a home. She has no privacy if she wants to invite guests. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Levack’s experience inspired her to become a vocal lawyer. She has spent years working with the Nova Scotia Disability Rights Coalition, pleading with the provincial government to do more for young adults with disabilities.

Their fight with the province ended in a lawsuit – with Nova Scotia’s highest court ruling that the province discriminated against people with disabilities.

Finally, on Tuesday, Levack got the call she had been waiting for. She will be among the first four people to participate in a pilot program in the province, allowing her to move into an apartment for the first time in her adult life.

« I won’t have nurses blowing my neck anymore. Not that they do it intentionally, but there’s always someone around and I like when I have my own space. »

The Nova Scotia Department of Community Services said in a statement that it is spending $3.5 million this fiscal year to launch the program. This will allow 25 young adults with disabilities to move into apartments and receive the support services they need.

Vicky Levack and her supporters campaigned for an end to the institutionalization of people with disabilities in Nova Scotia. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Levack is among the first four to move in mid-November. She says she will have a roommate who is also on the program and they will have access to 24-hour nursing support.

Community Services say they are working with the Ministry of Seniors and Long-Term Care to make the pilot work.

He says that over the next three years, another 175 young people will be able to move on their own.

Levack says she’s lucky to be among the first, but she won’t stop her advocacy until all people with disabilities who want to live independently have the opportunity.

« There are literally 300 young adults in this province who have been in the exact same boat as me for 10 years, » she said.

“Many people died before they had a chance to live in the community and experience full citizenship, so my job is not done.”


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