Ekamjit Ghuman in Victoria’s Fan Tan Alley.

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 site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (Elena Rardon/Black Press)
Port Alberni pressures owner of demolished hotel, Lantzville’s Pottie, for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

Letter writers weigh in on the City of Nanaimo adopting ‘doughnut’ economics as a guiding principle for decision-making.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: City of Nanaimo’s ‘doughnut’ has to be more than empty calories

Letter writers react to city council’s recent decision to adopt ‘doughnut’ economic model

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a car and a minivan Saturday afternoon at the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
One person taken to hospital after crash in north Nanaimo

Car and minivan collided Saturday at the intersection of the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Police in Nanaimo hope to find the owner of a Giant Reign mountain bike that was seized after a man was spotted riding it without a helmet on the wrong side of the road on Christmas Eve. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP suspicious to find expensive bike covered in layer of duct tape

Police looking for owner of Giant Reign mountain bike that they believe was stolen

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a car and a minivan Saturday afternoon at the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
One person taken to hospital after crash in north Nanaimo

Car and minivan collided Saturday at the intersection of the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam at a press conference last year. (Canadian Press photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Better federal vaccine planning badly needed

Why hasn’t Parliament done more to protect seniors and care homes, asks letter writer

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Kinsmen Participark in Beban Park will be closed next week so city workers can remove dangerous trees and invasive plant species. The work is the start of an improvement project that includes replacing signs and fitness stations in the spring. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo fitness park to close for removal of hazard trees and invasive plants

Tree cutting to start in Beban Park’s Kinsmen Participark as part of improvement project

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read