Ekamjit Ghuman in Victoria’s Fan Tan Alley.

GUEST COLUMN: Life with cerebral palsy full of triumph and tribulations

Tuesday, Oct. 6 is World Cerebral Palsy Day

By Ekamjit Ghuman

Special to Black Press Media

Tuesday, Oct. 6 is World Cerebral Palsy Day. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a common permanent physical childhood disability which affects an average of one in every 700 individuals. It is estimated that there are 17 million people living with CP worldwide.

Although the disability mainly affects movement, individuals with CP can also have hearing, visual, speech, learning, epilepsy and intellectual impairments.

There are four types of CP (spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic and hypotonic, and some individuals can have more than one type) and it can affect different parts of the body.

For example, spastic CP is the most common form of CP in which the muscles appear to be stiff and tight.

A person’s CP can affect one arm and one leg on one side of their body (referred to as spastic hemiplegia/unilateral), both legs (referred to as spastic diplegia/bilateral) or both arms and legs as well as the trunk, face and mouth (referred to as spastic quadriplegia/bilateral). Even though CP is a lifelong disability that has no cure, individuals living with CP are resilient and can still live the lives of their dreams.

I was born with CP.

My CP affects my hand co-ordination, speech, vision and ability to walk. Over the years I have accomplished many dreams with my disability.

For instance, during the early years of my childhood, I successfully learned how to walk with the use of a walker. I also learned how to write, despite the fact that my writing appears sloppy, resembling that of a child. I even completed my undergraduate studies due to the unconditional support I received at home and at school.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence I was encouraged and empowered to unleash my potential and pursue my dreams as long as they were reasonable and permitted by my CP. Therefore, I spent my childhood and adolescent years dreaming of a career that would enable me to one day purchase an apartment as well as to travel to the places on my bucket list, such as Amsterdam, Havana and Bali.

However, as a person with a disability, I face challenges in being accepted for who I am by the community at large. To illustrate, at times if I walk into a store, a restaurant, an office or a religious place of worship, I am stared at or am a victim of rude and hurtful remarks and questions. People see me as different and unable; not as just another individual.

Finding employment proved one of the biggest challenges.

After completing my Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University in 2014, I embarked upon my search for an employment opportunity like other new graduates, unaware that the next five years would unravel into the biggest struggle of my life.

I felt as if my life had come to a halt. While my fellow graduates were moving forward in their careers, I was struggling daily to not only find an employment opportunity but also to remain hopeful.

To help increase my prospects of finding a job, I volunteered at several non-profit organizations to gain work experience and enrolled in Kwantlen Polytechnic University‘s Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Human Resources Management (which I completed in 2017) to further enhance my knowledge, skills and abilities; but still, no job.

While struggling to find a job, I experienced a myriad of emotions which included anguish, anxiety, despair, envy and fear and sometimes even cried myself to sleep as my dreams, ambitions and aspirations were in peril.

Yet, I was aware that I could not lose hope and hence, continued to struggle to find work as I keenly believe that my CP should not deter me from pursing my dreams. There were people in my life who understood my struggles and thankfully they continued to offer words of hope and encouragement.

In the fall of 2019, I finally received my first job offer which I quickly accepted.

Though it took me five long years to find my first employment opportunity, I was fortunate to find a position in which I work with several individuals who are accepting, understanding, supportive and accommodating of my disability.

The ability to assist my boss in accomplishing her goals and objectives as well as make a meaningful contribution to British Columbia is gratifying and rewarding.

In the upcoming years I desire to remain a part of the workforce so that I can continue to make meaningful and viable contributions to our community while I continue to pursue my dreams.

World Cerebral Palsy Day aims to create awareness of the disability.

Awareness of CP is imperative because society broadly needs to overcome biases about disability and work towards making positive changes such as creating inclusive educational and employment opportunities for people with CP.

By helping to create awareness about CP, I hope to see us transition towards becoming a society that is not only accepting and understanding of individuals with disabilities but also one that encourages and empowers people with disabilities to unleash their potential and pursue their dreams.

Column

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The IIO has concluded its investigation into police's actions in a West Kelowna man's death. (File Photo)
UPDATE: One dead after Highway 97A crash near Armstrong, police watchdog investigating

The crash happened as RCMP attempted to stop an alleged stolen vehicle

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu offered praise to her team of volunteers (pictured Oct. 21), following a too-close race with BC Liberal and incumbent Eric Foster in the 2020 provincial election Oct. 24. The outcome will be dependent on the final count from mail-in ballots expected in three weeks. (Facebook)
‘Every vote counts’ in tight Vernon-Monashee race: NDP Harwinder Sandhu

Incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster finishes election night with slim lead

NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu, right, and incumbent Liberal Eric Foster went head-to-head in a tight race for the Vernon-Monashee seat in the Legislature. By the night’s end Oct. 24, the results were too close to call and the final count will be dependant on outstanding mail-in ballots. (Contributed)
Too close to call in Vernon-Monashee race

Incumbent Foster holds slim lead over NDP Sandhu, mail-in ballots still to come

Advance polling saw nearly 10,000 votes cast in Vernon-Monashee. Pictured: Schubert Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
BC VOTES 2020: Live results roll in for Vernon-Monashee race

That’s a wrap on voting in the provincial 2020 election

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap’s Greg Kyllo faces third term and BC NDP majority

BC NDP candidate Sylvia Lindgren celebrates party’s success

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
One case of COVID-19 identified at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health will follow up directly with those who may have been exposed to the virus

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read