5.9 — Disability-related items and services
Summary of legislation
The Director has the authority to set greater asset limits for a benefit unit where assets are accumulated in order to purchase approved disability-related items or services.
Certain payments are excluded as income when used to purchase/acquire disability-related items and services. To be excluded as income, the cost of the disability-related items and services cannot and will not be otherwise reimbursed.
Summary of directive
Payments from trusts derived from an inheritance or the proceeds of life insurance policy and gifts or other voluntary payments may be exempt from treatment as assets and income if they are applied to expenses for approved disability-related items or services. Also exempt are payments that are made pursuant to a court order or government-funded program, that are specifically made for the purpose of, and are applied to expenses for approved disability-related items and services.
The Director may approve an increased asset limit where assets are being accumulated to purchase an approved disability-related item or service, up to the maximum of the prescribed asset limit plus the amount needed for the items and services.
Approved disability-related items and services include, but are not limited to: assistive devices; support services; health maintenance, health care and safety items and services; renovations; education and training items and services.
Intent of policy
To ensure the appropriate treatment of assets and income when used for the purchase of approved disability-related items and services.
Application of policy
- ODSP provides increased limits and flexibility with respect to assets and income used by an ODSP recipient to purchase approved disability-related items and services.
- People with disabilities are best able to identify their disability-related needs. In many cases they are able to identify the supports they need to accommodate their disabilities.
- Income from the following sources, when used to purchase a disability- related item, is not included as income when determining monthly income support. These funds may also be exempt as assets in the following months if they will be used for an approved disability item or services:
- that portion of a loan, approved by the Director, that is applied to expenses approved by the Director for disability-related items or services
- that portion of a loan, approved by the Director, that is taken against a life insurance policy if that portion is or will be used for disability-related items or services approved by the Director
- payments from trusts derived from an inheritance or life insurance policy and gifts or other voluntary payments if they are applied to expenses for approved disability-related items or services for a member of the benefit unit that are approved by the Director and that are not and will not be otherwise reimbursed
- that portion of the interest earned by a trust that is used for disability-related items or services
- that portion of the interest or dividends earned on life insurance policies that are used for disability-related items or services
- Payments that are made pursuant to a court order or by a government-funded program, that are specifically made for the purpose of, and are applied to expenses for disability-related items and services for a member of the benefit unit that are approved by the Director and that are not and will not be otherwise reimbursed. For example, a court order may order an additional amount of spousal support, over and above basic maintenance, to cover special or extraordinary expenses, including disability-related expenses. The payments, which are specifically designated for and applied to approved disability-related items and services are exempt under ODSP
An ODSP recipient is in receipt of court ordered monthly spousal support payments from an ex-spouse. The court order specifies $500 for basic maintenance and $200 for disability-related expenses. The recipient uses the $200/month to pay for a day program that he attends. In this scenario the support payments of $200 would be exempt as income because they are specifically designated for and applied to approved disability-related items and services.
An ODSP recipient is in receipt of court ordered monthly spousal support payments from an ex-spouse. The order includes an amount payable for the cost of maintenance to cover basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter costs. No specific amount is ordered for disability-related expenses. The recipient advises that he uses $200 a month to pay for a day program that he attends. In this scenario the spousal support payments would not be exempt as income as the person's basic needs and shelter are being provided for through the support.
A government-funded program provides $500 per month to an ODSP recipient to assist with interpreter services so they can attend a training program. These payments are exempt as income because they are for a disability-related service from a government funded agency.
An ODSP recipient moves into a retirement residence because they require extra care the retirement home provides. The recipient’s family members provide funds each month to supplement the monthly cost of the retirement home. These payments may be exempt as income because they are a voluntary payment made by the family members to help the recipient cover costs for disability-related items and services.
Treatment of assets and income when used for approved disability-related items and services
Increase in prescribed asset limit
The prescribed asset limit for a benefit unit may be increased, as long as the assets are/will be used for the purchase of an item or service considered necessary for the health of a member of the benefit unit. In cases where the increased asset limit is not used for the intended purpose, ODSP eligibility should be reviewed for the period that assets exceeded the allowable limit.
Voluntary gifts and payments
Gifts and voluntary payments that are applied to disability-related items or services are exempt as income, with approval from the Director. Gifts or voluntary payments used to purchase a principal residence, an exempt vehicle or that will be applied to the first and last month’s rent necessary to secure accommodation are also exempt as income. (See Directive 5.8 — Gifts and voluntary payments for more information.)
Funds held in trust / cash surrender value of a life insurance policy
These funds are exempt as assets up to a combined maximum of $100,000. The exception to the $100,000 limit is a "Henson" trust (i.e., a discretionary trust) where the capital amount is not subject to a limit. However, any funds drawn from these trusts or insurance policies are considered income in the month received, unless used to purchase disability-related items and services that are approved by the Director, used to purchase a principal residence, an exempt vehicle or that will be applied to the first and last month’s rent necessary to secure accommodation. In addition to the above exemptions, $10,000 per benefit unit member may be withdrawn from funds held in trust or from the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy for any reason.
Bank loans and loans from other sources are exempt as income if used to purchase disability-related items and/or services approved by the Director. If the item is not able to be purchased in the month the loan is taken out they may be exempt as assets in the following month as long as the item or service is purchased as soon as is practicable.
Loans against the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy
If a recipient takes a loan against the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy, it is not treated as an asset or income provided the funds are used to purchase disability-related items and services approved by the Director.
Disability-related items and services
In general, disability-related items and services are used to replace, compensate for, or improve the functional abilities of persons with disabilities and cover a broad range of items and services. Disability-related items or services facilitate access, participation and/or enhanced functioning in one or more of the following:
- activities of daily living
- social, recreational, and or community activities
- health maintenance, health care and safety
- religious observances
Disability-related items and services may include costs associated with:
- items and services specifically designed for people with disabilities
- "add-on" or enhancements to items and services designed for general use in order to make them accessible, useable or available to people with disabilities
- items and services not specifically designed for people with disabilities but which nevertheless can compensate for or accommodate a functional limitation
Approved disability-related items and services
Where the relationship between the item/service and a person’s disability is unclear, the onus is on the person to demonstrate how the item/service accommodates or compensates for a functional limitation caused by a disability.
The following are examples of approved disability-related items and services:
- environmental controls (e.g., turning on lights, opening doors)
- independent living devices (e.g., automatic light switches, adaptive telephones, air conditioners, transfer lifting devices, ramps, reaching devices, bath aids)
- hearing and visual aids
- orthotics and prosthetics
- communications aids (e.g., speech devices, TTY units)
- respiratory devices
- computers and access technology
- Adapted information/communications systems (e.g., closed caption decoders)
- costs of Assistive Devices Program (ADP) approved devices (including upgrades, actual costs above ADP approved limits, repairs/maintenance, insurance)
- mobility aids (e.g., scooters, wheelchairs)
- extraordinary costs related to the care of working dogs trained and certified to provide essential services on a daily basis to people with vision, hearing or physical disabilities (e.g., boarding fees, veterinary charges, special diets)
- extra clothing, adaptive clothing
- wheelchair lifts
- motor vehicle for a disabled person
- vehicle modifications
- interpreter, intervenor and reader services
- attendant services
- nursing services including home care
- house-keeping/cleaning services required because of a disability
- services of a psychologist licensed to provide therapy or rehabilitation
- specialized transportation
Health maintenance, health care and safety
- prescription drugs not available under a drug plan
- prosthetics (e.g., implants, wigs, prosthetic supplies)
- air conditioners and air purifiers for people with breathing problems
- extraordinary food preparation expenses (e.g., supplies of pre-prepared foods)
- nutritional supplements, vitamins, herbal remedies and treatments not covered under the drug plan
- life alert systems (including purchase and on-going user costs)
- visual fire alarm
- incontinence supplies, diabetic supplies and surgical supplies
- travel expenses to obtain medical assessments/treatment
- home renovations for accessibility and/or health and safety
- outdoor modifications (e.g., ramps, safety rails)
- driveway alterations for accessibility reasons
Education and training
- disability-related educational supports such as interpreters, attendants, readers, devices and technology for people enrolled in continuing education (including correspondence courses, high school evening courses and adult upgrading programs)
- disability-related educational supports for post-secondary students beyond what is made available through the Special Needs Offices located in Colleges and Universities in Ontario
- sign language, lip reading and other disability specific training
- fees for programs specifically adapted for disability
Home and vehicle modifications
The cost of home and vehicle modifications to accommodate disabilities is an approved disability-related item and/or service. Funds accumulated to pay for the modification in full, or to top-up what is available through other programs/sources (e.g., the federal RRAP-D initiative administered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) may be exempt as assets above the allowable asset limit as they are being saved to pay for this disability related expense.
User fees, upgrades, enhancements and delivery of items and services
Disability-related items and services may also include user fees, upgrades, enhancements or timely delivery of disability-related items and services available through the ADP or other government or non-government programs.
Purchases outside of government & non-governmental programs
If a person chooses to purchase disability-related items or services outside of government programs (e.g. ADP) or non-governmental programs, the costs associated with the items or services may still be exempt as disability-related items and services. Therefore funds accumulated to pay for these items may be exempt as assets above the asset limit.
Expenses related to purchasing disability-related items and services
Any expenses associated with the purchase of these items or services for a person with a disability may also be considered an approved disability-related item or service. Examples of associated costs include assessments, repairs, maintenance, installation and set-up, training and user support.
The general rule regarding excluded items and services is that basic living costs, and costs for items or services that do not accommodate for a functional limitation due to disability, do not qualify as approved disability-related items and services.