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

Just Posted

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Northern Health confirmed it has the lowest vaccination rates amongst the province’s five regional health authorities. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Vaccination rates in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St James well below provincial average

COVID-19 immunization clinics for youth 12+ coming up in Fort St. James

Steve McAdam (left) is studying substrate conditions in the Nechako River and how they impact sturgeon eggs. The work will help design habitat restoration measures, said McAdam. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Sturgeon egg studies to help inform future habitat restoration

“It’s an interesting, challenging issue,” says Steve McAdam

Saik’uz First Nation Coun. Jasmine Thomas and Chief Priscilla Mueller speak about the need for addiction treatment facility near Vanderhoof, March 2021. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof addiction treatment centre tries again with ministry support

Agriculture minister insists she is not interfering in land commission

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read