Gina had been working as a waitress for over 25 years when she decided to make a change in her life. On her own, she began putting together a program that would benefit people like her who are blind or partially sighted.
Gina was diagnosed with progressive cones dystrophy when she was 20. She is legally blind, with “only 10% useful vision.”
One day, Gina popped in at the Victoria Disability Resource Centre (VDRC) and met Executive Director Wendy Cox to talk about her program. This meeting turned into an employment opportunity, since Wendy thought Gina’s skills and passion could be useful at the VDRC as well.
The VDRC is a non-profit that provides services to persons with disabilities, their families and friends, caregivers, and other service providers in Victoria, BC. The VDRC has been referring persons with disabilities to the Neil Squire Society for years for both assistive technology and employment services.
After a “smooth” process, the VDRC was able to hire Gina with the help of a wage subsidy through the Working Together Program. Now, Gina works on a program called LEAD, which stands for Lived Experience Around Disability.
Gina delivers presentations to groups of people on living with partial vision, what sort of equipment she uses, and how she experiences the world. She has been delivering these to senior retirement communities and has been introducing the LEAD program to schools in Greater Victoria.
The “how” of experiencing the world is an important aspect of Gina’s presentations. “We’re working with people who have lived experiences to bring more awareness and education to today’s youth. My long-term goal is to create disability awareness at every school.”
“Gina is a wonderful addition to our team!” says Wendy Cox. “She came with a unique set of skills that complements our team perfectly. Gina has a great sense of humour and is eager to succeed. Her strong work ethic, and professionalism in the community, has been an asset to the centre.”
Gina uses a large monitor to work with her assistive software, which helps her to be independent with her administrative tasks. Other than that, her accommodations include print materials in electronic format.
“I love my boss!” says Gina. “It’s very nice to have encouragement and support from Wendy. Everyone is so great, and everybody helps everybody. I really like the environment.
“I would like to give a better understanding of how those of us living with disabilities accomplish daily tasks. It’s going to be an amazing program when it all comes together. It’s exciting – there isn’t anything out there that’s like this. So far, the feedback we have been getting from people is really positive.”
“I would highly recommend the Working Together program to any business,” says Wendy. “Thanks to Working Together, we were able to spend more time acclimating Gina to the centre and the role. Gina’s computer skills needed to be strengthened and we were able to put a large focus on that. As well, Gina has gone above and beyond her job description to the benefit of the VDRC. She has been networking on behalf of the centre and as a result we have seen an increase in donations and our membership! We are beyond pleased to have her as part of the team!”
While speaking about her job, Gina has a realization. “I think this is my dream job,” she says, “Which is very cool. I love it! I’m really pleased with where my life is right now.”