Jody, an Employ-Ability participant since January of 2008, has cerebral palsy (new window) which severely affects his mobility and his ability to speak. He communicates by pointing with a head stick at letters or words on a board mounted on his wheelchair, or using his head stick to type on a keyboard to send emails. While Jody is literate, has normal brain function, and is able to control his wheelchair, he requires assistance to open doors, use elevators, eat, and drink. These combine to form a significant obstacle for him to overcome, both in his adaptation to a workplace and his ability to function in the eyes of his potential employers and co-workers.
To work effectively, Jody requires support in terms of assistive technology and human resources. Because of his mobility challenges, Jody cannot use regular tools or resources that are commonly found in most work environments. Although his typing speed is slow, the computer gives him independence and the ability to communicate on his own.
While attending the Employ-Ability program, Jody created an employment-action plan that would enable him to participate in society in a manner that fits with his values, beliefs, interests, and skills. His goal is to work part-time in a spiritual or religious environment, assisting youth and grievance counselors.
To gain experience in the workplace, Jody began volunteering for the Wesleyan Church in Moncton, New Brunswick (new window). His duties involve transferring handwritten notes to Microsoft Word (new window) documents and creating charts.
While preparing for this volunteer position, the Neil Squire Society identified his need for an Augmented Communication Device (ACD) and some software that would increase his productivity. These solutions exist, however they are costly. The Neil Squire Society decided to seek the help of other organizations such as the Cerebral Palsy Association (new window) and the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (new window) , organizations that are able to link to provincial government assistance programs. Unfortunately, because he is a volunteer rather than a paid employee, Jody is unable to secure the assistive technology he requires through provincial or federal funding sources.
To add to his woes, Jody now needs to replace his aging head stick. This is a crucial piece of equipment, for without it, he is incapable of communicating or using a computer. Once again, because he is volunteering instead of working, there is no option for funding of this critical piece of equipment.
Although Jody remains optimistic about his future, he has reached a road block. Jody and the Neil Squire Society hope he can continue the journey that he started and reach his goals.
If you would like to make a donation to support others like Jody, you may do so here.