When Kim got an iPhone, she had been “out of commission” for a decade.
In the late 1980s, Kim was a passenger in a motor vehicle accident where she fell over backwards and broke her neck. As a high functioning quadriplegic, she graduated from the University of British Columbia (opens in a new window) five years after her accident. She spent the next two decades working in different capacities, mainly doing medical social work. Then, a new barrier came into her life.
“I suffered severely from a secondary accident, when an SUV hit me as a pedestrian in my wheelchair. A couple days after that, I faced the greatest battle in my life: PTSD (opens in a new window).
“I was afraid to leave the house alone. I was afraid to drive. I had eating issues. My self-confidence was extremely low. Learning to live with PTSD was far more debilitating to me than transitioning from being able-bodied to having a disability.”
One day, Kim’s husband came home with an iPhone for her. She says, “I was quite upset and I was in tears. I was comfortable with the rudimentary phone I had. When you have PTSD, any kind of change can throw you off your game. This was a huge hurdle for me. There’s a learning curve, and I’m the kind of person who feels I have to know everything. It was overwhelming just thinking about the challenge of learning to utilize the device. I didn’t really know where to start.”
Kim has been involved with Spinal Cord Injury BC (opens in a new window) (SCI BC) for a long time, both in volunteer and staff capacities. It was through SCI BC that she heard about the Neil Squire Society’s Distance Computer Comfort Program, which offers free tutoring through a virtual classroom. “Not having the self-confidence to leave the house, I had the fantastic option of doing this remotely. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that option.”
And so Kim began working week-to-week with her tutor, Gillian. They set small, achievable goals so it wouldn’t become overwhelming and so she could gradually build on her successes. This process slowly helped her regain her confidence.
“The most important thing Gillian taught me was: don’t be afraid! There’s not much I can wreck on my iPhone. And Khatidja [Online Trainer] had a great way of making me feel at ease and learning at my pace.”
Kim remembers one particular day when she was experiencing technical issues on her computer and iPhone. Even Program Coordinator Gordon Watt couldn’t figure out how to fix the issue. “Next thing I know, there’s this big friendly Scottish guy at my door. Talk about service with a smile! Gordon was so patient, and he stayed until he figured it out. He never gave up.
“Khatidja, Gillian, and Gordon helped me build a foundation and the self-confidence to move forward with learning new things on my iPhone.”
Now, Kim pays it forward. Through her participation in SCI BC events and ICORD (opens in a new window) research, Kim met a few people who were facing similar barriers. Together, they created a group called South Fraser Active Living (opens in a new window), with the goal of creating recreational opportunities in their community. Along the way, Kim has passed on her technical skills to several others.
After over a year of the group’s efforts, the City of Surrey now has Adapted Toolkits at their recreation centres. Some of the items the toolkit includes are: Active Hands that make it easier to grip equipment, adapted medicine balls, and Velcro wristbands that can be used on free weights without the need to grip the weights.
The group has now grown to over a dozen people who meet at the Surrey City Centre Library. Kim explains, “Our initial goal was, why can’t we get a yoga class? Now we’ve expanded into something bigger – how to remove barriers so that someday, everyone in Canada will be able to participate and contribute fully in our society.”
Kim sums up her experience by saying, “I was not leaving my house, afraid of anything and everyone. It was with remotely taking this course, and then getting together with some peer mentors and a great instructor, that there was a switch. Now I’m a research participant and part of a community that has galvanized their efforts and achieved something significant in such a short period of time.”
“Oh, and by the way,” she adds, “I am driving myself too now.”