“I think that having a disability lets you have a different perspective on the world, and lets you have closer connection to other people with disabilities because they have similar struggles and similar things that they go through,” says Carrie Torrans.
Carrie puts this belief into practice by working at the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia (CPABC). The job is a dream come true for Carrie. She works as a Life Without Limits Community Connector, which involves providing referrals and advocacy for those whose lives are touched by cerebral palsy. Carrie was born with spastic quadriplegia, a severe form of cerebral palsy which affects all of her limbs (mainly the left side), leading her to use a wheelchair and impacting her mobility. She strives to take things day by day and give her best in every task that she does.
The importance of education
The 32 year-old has a social work degree from the University of British Columbia and a diploma in Disability Studies from Mount Royal College. Following graduation, she often felt discriminated against during job interviews, and that employers could not look past her disability and see the value she has to give to the community. She finds that being able to work at the Association has helped her to become more confident in herself, her skills, and all that she has to offer.
Carrie believes that the general population has not been adequately informed about cerebral palsy, and that there is a preconceived notion that those with CP have a cognitive disability. In fact, CP is primarily a physical and life-long condition which impacts an individual’s movement and muscle coordination. She believes that more education and awareness is needed to change perspectives about disability and those living with disabilities. Carrie believes the disability awareness presentations she does as part of her job at the CPABC are vital to educating the public and showing what individuals with CP are capable of doing.
Outside of the office, she likes to watch movies, explore her environment while enjoying nature and the ocean, read, and enjoy the company of friends. She has been to Mexico and Hawaii, where she discovered the challenges of traveling with a disability. Transportation is an issue, and the process involves a lot of juggling and thinking on the spot. “In terms of accessibility, when somebody says the resort is accessible or the taxi is accessible, it’s very vague and I don’t think there’s a basic understanding of what accessibility is,” she says. “The hotel people had to lift my 200 pound wheelchair into the van, so it’s difficult.”
Health is an ongoing challenge
Carrie feels that as she deals with one health concern, another one always seems to pop up. “It kind of gets to the point where you think to yourself if it’s ever going to stop, and you get frustrated because you always feel like you have to deal with that stuff and [that] it’s never going stop,” she says. “There’s many things in life that I have to juggle whether it’s my caregivers, my own help, trying to figure out how to get new equipment, so there are lots of things to juggle and figure out day to day. I don’t think many people understand that there are so many other things to take into consideration.
She says that health concerns add to her anxiety – wondering whether she’ll be sick or if she’ll have enough energy to work and stay active. “I’ve had countless surgeries with my kidneys and my bladder and having to deal with scoliosis in my back – I have titanium rods,” says Carrie. “I don’t think people understand this toll that it takes on you energy wise, also with self-esteem and depression— I think that’s a big issue when you have a more severe disability.”
Sharing her story with others
Sharing her story is important to Carrie. As part of her job, she had the opportunity to teach grade one and two students about cerebral palsy. “At first, I was a little nervous because it was my first presentation, but as soon as I saw their eager and smiling faces, my nerves were put to rest. They were astonished by some of the things I had accomplished. By doing presentations, we are able to show children that people with cerebral palsy are able to do many things and that disabilities or differences are not a thing to be afraid of and are a normal part of life.”
Carrie says, “My passion in life is to help other people with disabilities reach their full potential in life. I am so excited to be working with the Association, it is a great opportunity and my dream job.
This story was shared as part of World Cerebral Palsy Day 2016