International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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Today, December 3, marks the 20th International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This is an area close to my heart, and one that thisvillage considers extremely important.

My Dad worked most of his life with persons with disabilities, eventually managing a region for Assisted Income for the Severely Handicapped – a government program in Alberta that provides much-needed assistance for individuals. My Mom grew up with a brother that had developmental disabilities, and this uncle lived in our home for a number of years. It was his death in late 2008 that made me want to work with this disadvantaged group.

I found work in Alberta at some great organizations, including Employment Placement and Support Services. I was at EPSS for 13 months where I worked as a Community Inclusion Specialist. It was a pretty remarkable job. I got to work with persons with disabilities, with my objective being to help them meet their volunteer and recreational goals, increase their independence and help them integrate into the community. My days were spent swimming, working out at the gym, coaching on the use of public transit, volunteering at animal shelters, etc. I saw great changes in people’s lives and felt as though I had made a measurable difference.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself still working part-time with persons with disabilities with an organization in Ottawa. I know that this group of people have major barriers in Canada, so I am happy to do what I can. But I also know that the situation is far worse in many developing countries. There is simply a lack of resources to help persons with disabilities in countries such as India. Families do what they can to help individuals, but they can only do so much. More often than not, education is not specialized for those that need it; facilities lack wheelchair ramps; employers discriminate against persons with disabilities; and, some people are simply unable to work like everyone else.

While visiting India, we had the pleasure of meeting a few individuals that had a disability of some variety.  We saw firsthand the struggle they went through each and every day just to survive. thisvillage is committed to helping persons with disabilities in rural India. I believe that my experience in working with this demographic has given me the know-how to address many of the problems facing these individuals, but it has also given me the heart and determination to actually get it done. Living with a disability is full of obstacles and barriers, but thisvillage commits to providing people with the means and ability to succeed in life.

— Graeme Esau

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