She sits cross-legged, a baby close to her side. In the background, lullaby music is playing faintly, and in the corner rests a low, red chair with no arms. The chair in itself is symbolic of the challenges she’s encountered to get here, to this very room, and the baby by her side? Well, that’s proof that she’s made it.
Looking up, she shares the best part about tending to infants. “They make me smile,” she explains. After a brief moment though, it’s evident that she makes them smile just as much.
At 23, Tiffany Carter, an Early Childhood Education graduate, is farther along than most in her career. She’s found her dream job as a child care provider in the infant room at Our Kids Child Care in Sarnia, Ontario.
“I love my job,” she says with conviction. “It’s a job that I’ve always wanted.”
But it certainly didn’t come easy. She’ll be the first to admit that it took a lot of hard work and determination, and a little bit of help too.
As a child, Tiffany developed cancer. And although treatment saved her life, it also changed it dramatically. A weakened immune system resulted in encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain – leaving her with permanent brain damage, as well as hearing, vision and mobility loss.
Thanks to her impressive drive, though, Tiffany’s now a long, long way from her days of being confined to a hospital bed.
After graduating from college, Tiffany needed extra assistance to help her prepare for and maintain a job. She applied for employment supports from the provincial government’s Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), and chose Community Living Sarnia-Lambton as her supports provider.
“Her motivation was so apparent,” says Andrea Hands, Coordinator of Employment Transitions for Community Living. Through ODSP Employment Supports, Andrea explains, Community Living was able to coach Tiffany, provide job development and offer additional supports to both Tiffany and her employer once she started work.
“We had a job coach come in and help train her, become comfortable with her coworkers and understand the daycare’s policies and procedures,” explains Andrea. “And now, we just come in every once in a while to make sure that Tiffany is doing well and the employer is happy.”
And they are. While Tiffany’s success is owed in part to ODSP Employment Supports, it’s also owed to her own ability to advocate for herself.
The low, red chair in the corner, the one with no arms? A perfect example.
“Tiffany found that she was not comfortable feeding a child in that chair and then being able to get up if that child was asleep to put them in their crib,” explains Sue Hollingsworth, Assistant Supervisor at the daycare. So Tiffany established that she needed a different chair and found a suitable one in another room. Simple as that.
Sue says that in no way have Tiffany’s disabilities affected her ability to do her job. “She does everything that everyone else does,” Sue says. And she does it with skill, dedication and warmth, she adds, bringing undeniable value to their programs and to their team.
It’s lunchtime now and Tiffany’s giving Sadie, a three-month old, her bottle. Tiffany smiles down at her, and Sadie, of course, smiles right back.
Don't let good talent go to waste. People with disabilities can and want to work.