Unable to return to work after spinal cord injury? A career counsellor can help explore your options

Alan Stanley considers himself lucky.

After he was paralyzed in a bicycle accident in 2015, he was able to start back to work as an IT professional while he was still in rehabilitation at QEH. 

There were mixed feelings involved, Stanley said.

“You just want something, anything, to feel normal again. So because I was able to continue with the job that I had, it did bring a sense of normalcy. At the same time, there was also the feeling that things aren’t quite the same,” he said. 

“It’s like that with most things once you get back to it – that’s work, that’s cooking, that’s recreation, that’s being with friends. There’s this feeling of relief that you’re still able to do it, but also realizing it’s not going to be exactly the same as it was.”

Stanley had worked as a blacksmith for many years, but made the switch to IT early enough that he already had an established career by the time he was injured, he said.

“I was lucky in a lot of respects, in that I had a job that did not require much modification. I could use the same desk, I could use the same equipment. I didn’t have to work anywhere, where accessibility was an issue.”

For many people with spinal cord injuries, that just isn’t the case.

That’s where employment counsellors like Mark Cameron come in.

Cameron provides no-cost career counselling services through the PEI Council for Persons with Disabilities. The process involves meeting with the individual to get a sense of their interests and passions, and having them fill out online assessments to determine what their transferrable skills and work values are.

Once that’s done, Cameron provides them with an idea of what industries they can set out to explore, he said.

“For some people that might mean returning to school. Other people, that might mean volunteering in the field. But it depends, for some people that might just mean working on their resume and developing their job search skills. It depends on the individual.”

Whatever they decide, Cameron encourages his clients to do their homework before jumping in, he said.

“I often see people going into a post-secondary program, because they think ‘oh, that looks great, that sounds good,’ and then they get into it and it’s not what they thought it would be. After X amount of weeks, they lose interest or it’s overwhelming and then they drop out. And that hurts their self esteem.”

Plenty of research can help clients avoid that, he said.

“That might involve going to speak to an instructor at Holland College or UPEI, talking to someone who works in that industry, possibly doing some job shadowing on-site if that’s a possibility.”

Although it might take longer for some people to accept that they can’t go back to work in their field, Cameron wants them to know there is hope, he said.

“The end goal is that they come to the realization that ‘you know what, maybe I can’t do that type of work anymore, but I also have some transferrable skills that I can take from those jobs into a new field.” 

You can contact an employment counsellor with the PEICOD Employment Services program in Charlottetown (902-892-9149 ext. 226/227); you can also contact an Employment Specialist in Summerside (902-436-9259) or Montague (902-838-5878) or at workcoord@peicod.pe.ca

The PEICOD Charlottetown office is open Mon-Thursday, 8:00-5:30; Montague office is open Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30 pm, and Summerside office is open from Monday-Thursday, 8:00-5:30.

Stepping up to the pump: New app helps mobility-challenged drivers refuel

Shell gas station employees are stepping up to the pump to help mobility-challenged patrons refuel after the company released their new fuelService app.

The app allows patrons to search for a location nearby and find a station that is available to help them refuel. The app then lets the station know when the patron has arrived, and provides the patron with an estimated wait time, after which the designated employee will exit the store to assist them.

Shell has locations across P.E.I. including Charlottetown, Belfast, Summerside, Borden and Cornwall. However, some locations may not show up under the “available now” tab in the app.

At the Capital Drive station in Cornwall, they’re still foggy on the details, said manager Cathy MacLeod.

“There’s usually just one person here,” she said.

“I don’t know how it’s going to work, but they’ll just have to call in and it gives us time to know that the person’s coming. Then we can try to get someone from the coffee shop to come over to the gas side, and then we run outside.”

You can download the fuelService app for Apple, Android or Windows here. Comment below to let us know what you think!

Is your business or venue accessible? This free accessibility audit can help you find out

Going out to eat at a restaurant or participate in an event can get a little more complicated for an individual whose mobility is impaired.

If there is a ramp, is it safe? Or is it too steep? Are the doors wide enough for a person in a wheelchair to enter? Is the terrain smooth? Is there an accessible washroom?

While people with disabilities have to ask themselves these questions regularly, able-bodied individuals may struggle to envision each step a business must take to make their space accessible.

That’s why Spinal Cord Injury PEI is now offering an Accessibility Audit service, free of charge. Contact us today and we will travel to your business or event site to help you develop your accessibility plan and apply for government funding.

Thank you for helping us create a more inclusive and accessible province.

City Cinema reopens, accessible seating available

City Cinema reopened on a limited basis on July 17, 2020, after shutting its doors due to COVID-19. The non-profit cultural hub is now playing Bohemian Rhapsody July 17-19 & July 23, and a special 15th anniversary showing of the Ballad of Jack and Rose from July 24-26, which was filmed in eastern P.E.I. Submitted photo by City Cinema.

City Cinema is open for business once again, and with fully accessible amenities, it may prove to be an excellent source of entertainment for the mobility impaired.

The non-profit cinema, now run by the Charlottetown Film Society, is equipped with two accessible building entrances and two reserved seats for patrons with mobility devices, which includes paired seating for a partner.

City Cinema is committed to providing an arts and culture hub that is inclusive to everyone in the community, said CFS president Carol Horne.

“We want to make sure everyone is able to come and see the excellent films we present at the cinema,” she said.

City Cinema reopened July 17th after shutting its doors due to COVID-19. The cinema is now playing Bohemian Rhapsody July 17-19 and July 23, and a special 15th anniversary showing of the Ballad of Jack and Rose from July 24-26, which was filmed in eastern P.E.I.

The business is open on a limited basis only, with reserved seating to allow for proper physical distancing in the theatre. They are also recommending the use of non-medical fabric masks for patrons visiting the facility, as well as contact-free payment methods.

Although there are financial concerns, City Cinema and the CFS are excited to be open again, even on a limited basis, said Horne.

“Since purchasing the cinema in March 2019 and operating it as a non-profit, we had been enjoying a very good year. Now with fewer weekly showings and many fewer seats we will have to be innovative on how to recover lost revenue,” she said.

Support local this weekend by purchasing your tickets here, then grab a bite to eat at Piatto Pizzeria, an accessible and delicious place to dine conveniently located around the corner from City Cinema.

Donation of wheelchair ramp to Dave Grant and family

Spinal Cord Injury PEI was happy to donate a wheelchair ramp to Dave Grant this month.

Dave’s father and brother have picked it up and will be installing it in his soon-to-be-accessible home.

Dave is still in recovery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and is doing well. He hopes to re-educate to start a new career, and plans to start driving again once he’s out.

All the best to Dave and his family!

Notice to Accessible CrossFit Members

The Accessible CrossFit program is on hold until September, but until then the team at CrossFit 782 is happy to accommodate members with mobility issues through integrated classes.

Members must now book ahead of time to secure a spot in the class here. Those needing accommodations may find the 11am, 1:30 and 2:45 classes to be a better experience as they are typically quieter times with smaller classes. That said, all are welcome to join the class of their choosing.

Memberships will be paid individually until further notice.

We’re back!

The pandemic has affected everyone, including all us here at SCI PEI. Our office had been shut for a few months, but we’re back now and focused more than ever on community outreach.

We’re compiling a list of people to whom we can be of service, and we’re reaching out to sibling agencies to see if we can share resources.

We continue to advocate for support and acceptance with government and industry.

Please contact us and let us now if there’s anything we can do to be of service.