by Carrie Torrans
When you have a disability, finding employment can be really difficult. Thankfully in 2016, I was offered a job at the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC as the Community Connector. This job has allowed me to fulfill my dream of helping other people with disabilities and help them live their lives to the fullest.
A stretch of obstacles
In 2012, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in social work as well as a diploma in disability studies from Mount Royal College. Given my ten years of education, I thought that finding a job would be relatively easy, but sadly I was wrong. For four years despite the fact that I went to several interviews and was continuously searching for any job opportunity I still could not find employment. Eventually, it got to the point where I thought that I was never going to find a job and it took a real toll on my mental health. Like many other people with disabilities, I felt like I was facing discrimination.
One step at a time
In 2016, knowing that my career goal was to help other people with disabilities and that my best chance finding a job was through a volunteer position, I decided to see if I could become a volunteer at the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia and thankfully I did. While volunteering I did many tasks such as attending community events, transcribing interviews, and creating a media database. In the end of March, to my surprise, was offered a position at the association as the Community Connector. All my hard work and determination had paid off. I finally had someone who was able to see worth in my skills and education and my dream had come true.
As the Community Connector, my role consists of many things. First, many people call into the office looking for help. Some common things people ask about include looking for social or recreational opportunities, looking for specific resources like physiotherapists or occupational therapists and where to find other funding sources for extra expenses that may come from having a disability such as having a vehicle converted so it is wheelchair accessible. Another part of my role is to go out into the community whether it is at a school or another organisation to tell them more about cerebral palsy, as well as inform them about all the programs and services that are available at the association.
With any job, comes challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge I face is constantly people with disabilities not getting the necessary support and services they need and therefore falling through the cracks. For example, a woman with cerebral palsy called in saying that she felt as though her doctor was not listening to her concerns. I suggested to her that she look into getting a new doctor, which she was unable to find. I discovered that in the city she lived in had a shortage of doctors and it was nearly impossible to find a new doctor. Another surprising thing I find is even though children with disabilities have fairly easy access to medical professionals while growing up, there is a complete lack of doctors specialising in cerebral palsy to help them through the many health concerns that can arise when a person ages. My experience goes to show that people with disabilities still face many obstacles and lots of work still needs to be done.
Finding confidence with meaningful work
Since having this job, my life has changed in many ways. Probably the biggest change for me is my mental health. I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my life. While seeking employment, I had many negative thoughts such as, I’m never going to find a job”, or “I must not be deserving of a job.” Since having this job my sense of self-worth has greatly improved. Being able to follow my passion for helping other people and knowing that I helping to improve people’s lives has greatly increased my self-esteem and confidence. This job has removed feelings of guilt as I was being financially supported by my family for a long time. I feel proud and accomplished to be able to financially support myself and have more financial freedom. For this, I am very grateful.
Neil Squire’s Working Together Program has also been a huge part of helping me maintain employment. They have provided me with assistive technology such as Dragon Naturally speaking which converts speech to text, allowing me to work much faster.
As a result of having this job at the association, my future looks brighter. I have thought of about getting my master’s degree in social work but before I can apply for the program, I need to have two years of working experience within social services, so I now have the possibility of pursuing that goal. If I were to give advice to other people with disabilities that are trying to find employment, I would say that no matter how frustrated and disheartened by the many disappointments you may face while you are trying to find meaningful employment, never give up on your dreams because they can come true.