June 13, 2011
This week, we have a story written by Helena Reimer, from Slave Lake, Alberta. Helena was recently enrolled in literacy and computer classes at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, Literacy and Learning site. She is now doing the Information Technology Analyst Program (ITAP) at Northern Lakes College.
Play an audio version of this story
I am a 32 year old woman who has a disability. The Eustachian tubes in my ears needed to be replaced when I was a toddler. I was raised in Northern Alberta, where everyone knows everybody. If there was something different about you, everyone would put you in the proverbial box of what they thought you could accomplish. Being a person with a disability, I have come to realize that self esteem can become a struggle.
The public school system didn’t help my self-esteem. The certificate of completion I received from high school didn’t help me much. That’s when my high school counsellor suggested that I go to Fairview College and take the Transition Vocational Program which I graduated. Then I wanted to explore and do different things. I was able to start working at the Fairview Hospital as a candy striper, a type of assistant. Then an abnormal incident happened in Fairview. Dr. Doug Snider was murdered by Dr. Abraham Cooper (May 5, 1999). Thanks to this incident, the work program that I was a part of changed: there was media attention, we were grieving the beloved doctor, and our feelings that we had to deal with daily in secrecy.
I got a job at a hair salon in Fairview. There were times that were affecting my self-esteem. As the job went on, it was starting to show I had my problems. My worker and I decided that I should apply at the local hotel. After some time working at the hotel, I decided to apply to Northern Lakes College Academic Upgrading Program, and I got in. As the courses got harder, I quit working at the hotel to focus on my studies. My worker had some problems of her own, and needed to quit. The new worker and I didn’t get along at all. She thought that the choices that I was making were not right. I was meeting people that supported me, but she always found a fault about them.
It was around that time I graduated from NLC, after four years. I had spent one year in the Transitional Vocational Program and two or three years in the North Peace Community Adult Learning program, previously. Now, I felt ready for the Information Technology Analyst Program (ITAP) being offered in Slave Lake. I would have to move to become an IT professional. My worker thought I wouldn’t be getting support and would get into more trouble; a predicament that would not be so great. She did not support my move and my self-esteem at the time was burning at both ends of the candle.
I am now in the second year of the ITAP program. I am well on my way to the profession I know I will enjoy. The World Health Organization states that disabilities are “a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.” I believe that I am more than that proverbial box that people try to put me in.