In 1997 I was involved in a motor vehicle accident which left me paralyzed
The stigma attached to disability, the inaccessible environments, the blatant disregard and exclusion I felt from society made me question my value as a person. But it made me question more than just how much I valued myself.
But it made me question more than just how much I valued myself. It made me question how accepting society is of this discrimination and how unnoticed it was. What became paramount as time went on, was that I could no longer ignore the calling do something ‘real’ about improving the quality of my own life and that of other persons with disabilities.
I have been gainfully employed in the open labour market since 2001. In 2010 I left the corporate field and became involved in the disability sector at a grass roots level. From then I was involved in peer support programmes which were aimed at educating and training people with mobility impairments to improve their health and the quality of their lives. I facilitated support groups for women who had recently become disabled and who were at their final stages of rehabilitation before being discharged from hospital. I also facilitated HIV/AIDS programmes and workshops to combat the spread of the disease among persons with disabilities. Since a young age I offered time and services to community and charitable organizations, an example being the Lions Club (2007-10) and was awarded fund-raiser of the year (2009).
In 2011 I joined the Institute for the Promotion for Disabled Manpower and have since been working part-time as the Administrator for the organisation. I recently earned my MPhil degree in Disability Studies from UCT and through my work and studies I have become passionate about social entrepreneurship. If supported adequately, I believe that social entrepreneurship is an employment option that can lead to economic self-sufficiency and assist broader economic growth. In particular, programs that support and encourage business development, and that take into account specific disability issues such as lack of access to capital and the need for long-term holistic support specifically for start-up businesses. I firmly believe that this is the area where economic empowerment will flourish for disability if proper support and mentorship is in place.
On a personal level, I have participated in a research project with SSISA over the past six months. The research is being done to compare the effects of robotic walking and an exercise activity-based rehabilitation programme on individuals with an incomplete spinal cord injury. It has been amazing to see how my physical strength has improved in only six months and the effect it has had on my overall well-being. This has proven to me that anything is achievable with hard work and determination. I do hope to continue with training over an extended period and aim to reach my next goal which is to do the Camino de Santiago.