be open.

Shannelle Blanchet,
La Cité

“I was diagnosed with a learning disability and with a chronic medical condition that often causes severe pain.”

Revealing your disabilities to others can be difficult. I experienced this dilemma firsthand. While I was a student in La Cité’s personal support worker program, I was diagnosed with a learning disability and with a chronic medical condition that often causes severe pain.

I realized then that I had to share some information with my classmates and teachers about what I was going through if I were to complete my studies. It was tough to do because I feared their reaction. So I revealed just a little bit about my disabilities. I needn’t have worried. Their friendly, accommodating responses gave me confidence to be much more open about myself.

Armed with a newfound self-assurance that their acceptance gave me, I not only finished my studies, but also graduated with honours. My achievements at school included a successful stint serving in the emergency room at Montfort Hospital, a position I accessed through the La Cité collégiale co-op program.

Why the emergency room? I love to learn by doing, so I asked for a placement that would put me in the thick of the action. What’s more, my co-op experience reinforced how important it is for me and other students with disabilities to state our needs to teachers and employers. Your openness flows back to you. People are willing to support you if you just share with them your condition and what you require from them because of it. The return can be as straightforward as just being understanding.

This knowledge was a revelation and is an inspiration. I’ve used the affirmation to be more accepting of my disabilities and myself. I work as a personal support professional in a physiotherapy clinic, where I continue my habit of communicating honestly and freely. I also plan to return to school part-time to study electro-neuro diagnostics.

I wouldn’t have thought I’d be in this position a few years ago. Yet I’ve graduated with honours, embarked on a career, and pursued it with ambition because I’ve been able to talk about disabilities and my needs with fellow students, teachers and employers. And if I’m able to be open, then so is any disabled student, co-op worker and employee.