Last Thursday I went in an electric wheelchair for the first time to work. It went really well. I felt independent again. No one was there, I did it all by myself. My co-workers helped me set up my laptop and what all I need. If I need any help, I can let them know. I’ve been working there a month and before this week I went in my manual wheelchair with a worker. My manual wheelchair means I need someone to push me everywhere and I don’t like that. It makes me feel like I have to rely on people when I don’t need to. The manual wheelchair doesn’t give me enough support and by the end of the day my back was killing me.
My one worry about taking the electric wheelchair was getting into the little half bathroom. It’s pretty small and my wheelchair can’t fit in there. So I left it outside the door, and walked in. I held onto the door and wall but got in there without any problem. It ended up being fine and it’s no longer a concern of mine. It was the first week where I felt like I was a normal person and a member of the team.
I’m with an agency that provides me with workers and support to be out in the community working. However I was ready to try this job on my own without someone being there the whole time. One of my coordinators met me at work on Thursday to make sure everything would go alright. He filled my boss in on my decision and what I wanted. Sometimes people who have only known me for a little while have trouble understanding what I’m saying. Even people who have known me forever stumble over a word or two. My coordinator explained it to my boss so there was no confusion and everything was clear. He left my boss his contact information and explained how we could contact him if there were any concerns. My boss looked at him, “We’ll be fine”. My coordinator asked if there was anything else I needed. I said no but looked at my boss, “Do I work on Fridays?” “Yes, if you want to”. I turned to my coordinator and asked if he could book a bus for me. “My pleasure Shawna, I’ll do it when I get back to the office. You both have my email if there are any problems and you can phone me”. My boss replied “Yes but there won’t be any problems”.
When I started this job with my worker, I was completing my tasks quicker than expected so I usually ran out of work on Fridays. One Friday I didn’t have any work to do the entire day. My worker shared the idea with me of how we could take Fridays off. In my mind, I really wanted to say “No, this is a new job, I don’t really want to take off Fridays when they expect me there three days a week”. But I couldn’t say that, instead I said we could check with my boss about it. My worker talked to my boss about it and I ended up taking one Friday off. When I started going independently this week, I wanted to know how many days I would be working.
After my coordinator left on Thursday, my boss and I went to our desks to see if I had any new projects to complete. I am working under a web designer and he gives me tasks to help complete projects. He’s only in the office on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. I work Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday so a lot of our communication is through email. Before this week he would send the tasks and projects to my worker who would pass it on to me. But when I checked my email on Thursday morning I saw he had sent me instructions about how I needed to format a file into a table format. It was my first time receiving instructions directly. I felt kinda happy and hounored that it was going to someone else. It was coming right to me! My boss returned and when I told her how the web designer had emailed me work, all she said was “ok, go to it!”
But I thought I would get the Powerpoint done first for her. I only had a few more slides left. I knew she didn’t need it until the summer but I wanted it done and out of my hair. I finished it at 2:30pm and started the work for the web designer but didn’t finish his task. On Friday I kept working on that project and completed it. It made me feel like part of the team and I hope I make them happy with what I can do.
I like working there. It’s fun and I don’t feel like I have a disability when I’m there. I’m so happy I could start doing it alone: without someone coming in with me everyday. I want to try being more independent. I see a lot of people on the Handibus going to work and I used to wonder if I would ever be like them. Now I am and that’s a big honour for me.