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Disabled worker endorses the SafeAbility concept

by Paul MacVicar, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Vida Amidi endorses the concept of the SafeAbility program.
Vida Amidi

When Vida Amidi moved to Canada from Iran five years ago, she knew her life would change forever. What she didn’t realize was that the change would leave her in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the shoulders down.

“About three months after my husband and I arrived here, I fell in the bathroom breaking my neck and injuring my spinal cord,” she recalls. “After extensive rehabilitation (almost nine months) I gained some movement in my shoulders and arms. But it took a couple of years before my emotional state improved enough for me to look for work.”

Today, Vida is employed as a freelance interpreter and works part-time for MCIS (Multilingual Community Interpreter Services - Ontario). But her journey back into the workforce wasn’t easy. It took a lot of determination and a number of rejections from employers who were reluctant to hire someone in a wheelchair with limited movement.

“A lot of employers won’t hire persons with disabilities,” she says. “They ask, ‘what can this person contribute to the company.’ I ran up against a lot of barriers.”

But her persistence paid off. After several months of looking for work, Vida finally landed a job. She credits much of her success to Link Up Employment Services, one of 93 agencies in Toronto that assist persons with disabilities find work.

Vida feels strongly that a new occupational health and safety awareness program Link Up is developing with other service providers and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will improve employment chances for the disabled community.

“My accident could have easily happened at work,” she says. “It was a just a fall. A fateful fall. It’s important to be aware of health and safety. In my case, I got dizzy and thought I should go lie down in my bedroom. If I knew better, I would have just sat down on the floor.”

Thousands of people with disabilities, visible and non-visible, in Toronto seek employment each year but receive little or no workplace health and safety awareness training prior to getting a job. That’s why the WSIB has partnered with Link Up to develop the new health and safety awareness program called SafeAbility: Safe and Able to Work.

The objective of the program is to provide information on occupational health and safety to the disabled community, job coaches and volunteers during employment preparation. It is not meant to replace an employer’s responsibility for health and safety training on the job, but rather to help prepare workers for that training, which should ultimately lead to fewer work-related injuries and illnesses.

“This type of health and safety awareness training has been a long time coming,” says Vida. “It will definitely help people with disabilities find work. This program is valuable to both employees and employers as awareness of health and safety issues will decrease the number of work-related accidents. This should be an incentive for employers to hire employees who have gone through the program.”



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