Readers may recall the intriguing three-part story we ran last year about SCI Manitoba member Peter Berg’s helicopter rescue from...
Living with a Disability in Canada
My name is Artem Dolia and I work as a Rehabilitation Counsellor Assistant at SCI Manitoba. I moved to Winnipeg from Ukraine in 2017. I am a quadriplegic with 20 years of experience being in a wheelchair and would like to share my experience living with a disability in Canada.
My life changed completely in June 1999. During an unsuccessful dive, I injured my spine in the cervical section and couldn’t move my arms and legs right away. I started to sink and lost consciousness. When my friend saw what happened, he pulled me out of the water and began to provide first aid but I could not move and lost consciousness because of a fracture. My friend called an ambulance, and I was taken to the hospital. I had surgery the next day. Since that day my life has changed. I had to learn how to eat, dress, shave and write all over again. It was not an easy thing to start everything from scratch again.
It is hard to live in a country that is not accessible for people with different needs. That’s why I decided to immigrate to Canada.
My first adventure started at the airport in Winnipeg. I was surprised when I noticed that all the sidewalks are with ramps and are really accessible for people. Compared to my home country, it is absolutely different. Here in Canada for the first time since I was injured, I could go outside without any help. I experience that freedom and independence on the street when I just go outside for a walk. I can go all over the place in the city without barriers and I think we have to appreciate that. Many people in other countries don’t have this opportunity. Of course, we still have stores, banks and small restaurants without automatic opening doors, and usually people are nice and ready to help. My second highlight was using the public transportation (bus). It is an incredible feeling when you can jump on the bus and go to any part of the city by yourself. You can go to any mall, store or the movie theatre. For the first couple of months, I got the chance to see more movies than in all my life before. I went in almost all directions and explored Winnipeg by myself for a short period of time. It is so good to be independent.
When I learned about the special transport service “Handi-Transit”, I was surprised that such a thing exists. This service makes the person in a wheelchair absolutely independent, in combination with public transportation and the regular accessible taxi.
Talking about health care, home care, different organizations which help people – is absolutely unique. Having someone who will help you dress, get ready for work, cook a meal for you – is such a blessing for me. There are so many different agencies who will help you with finding a job, accommodation, entertainment, etc. I find all of these services so helpful.
Yes, all of these services are not perfect, but they exist and they work. There is still some work needed to improve on. We, people with special needs, can help and bring our wishes to the authorities to make changes and improvements.
I also noticed that many playgrounds are accessible and you can go and play with the kids. I have two nephews with whom I like to play outside. We spend hours on the children’s playgrounds together. It is true happiness when you feel absolutely free and independent.
This is my short story about living in Canada. Please, value what we have and enjoy your life.