Two years ago, Carmen was new to learning about the internet. Now, she is doing a course on designing websites, and she’s particularly enjoying coding. “I’m actually learning and retaining. My class average right now is 98%,” she beams.
Carmen lives close to nature near St. Albert, Alberta. “Being in the country is really nice. My son gets to quad ride in the summer,” she says. “But I have to be careful with that because of my disability.”
In 2009, Carmen’s Achilles tendon (opens in a new window) ruptured. While in the hospital for surgery, she caught a superbug. A year ago, she also had to undergo a hip replacement. Today, she lives with three types of arthritis (opens in a new window). “Some days, I flare up so bad that I can’t even move my arms,” she explains.
“Because of the disabilities that I have, I was not able to go back to my position doing carpentry work,” she says. “When you’re almost at your end – that’s when I heard about the Neil Squire program. It’s amazing how positive everything was… And the busier you are, the less time you have to think about negative things.”
Carmen joined Neil Squire’s Digital Jumpstart program and received computer tutoring so she could transition into a web design course. She also received equipment to be able to study to the best of her ability.
“I had been really behind on modernizing myself with the computer,” she explains. “Neil Squire helped me learn many things, [including] Microsoft Office (opens in a new window), and I was able to prepare myself to apply to a web design program through Make a Change Canada (opens in a new window). Through Neil Squire, I received a proper headset to be able to do my school.”
Carmen’s new knowledge is already helping her in different areas of her life, including a new venture she is working on with her niece.
“What it’s helped me do is learn to develop my own website for my little business at home – I have two tiny cabins [for rent] – so I can advertise better and know how to do my own designs. I’m making it eco-friendly, so people can live off-grid – and being able to do the internet, there’s so much more information for me.
“Another thing it helps me do, knowing more about the internet, is help my son do his homework. He’s in online school, which is a completely new experience.”
By the end of her training with Digital Jumpstart, Carmen was well equipped to take on her web design program.
“With the school I am in now, they are so supportive,” she says. “The teacher’s always there when you need help and I can always phone them. Same with Neil Squire – Harvey [tutor] was so nice to work with and so positive. I’m meeting people that are really encouraging, and I found that I really needed that.”
Carmen will complete her course in July. If she does well, she can begin the advanced 4-month program, which she is hoping to do. Judging by her current performance, she is sure to achieve this goal.
“[Digital Jumpstart] was a super positive experience that got me going,” she concludes, “And it was very encouraging to keep me going.”
This project is funded by the government of Canada’s
Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities