By Mackenzie Mohr
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jevon MacLellan, who has cerebral palsy, through the Terrace and District Job Opportunities Program in which we are both registered.
For those unfamiliar with cerebral palsy (CP), it is a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination. It affects your muscle tone, movements, and motor skills. Although causes of CP are unknown, many cases are a result of problems during pregnancy where the brain is damaged or doesn’t develop normally. Affected individuals of Periventricular Leukomalacia (a form of white-matter brain injury) often develop cerebral palsy.
Many in our community know Jevon and recognize him on our streets. Only knowing him for three weeks, I have learned what kind of amazing person he is. Jevon has a great personality, an awesome sense of humor and a very kind heart. If you were to sit down with him, you would see all these wonderful attributes.
When I was asked to write about Jevon for The Terrace Standard, I just didn’t know where to start.
Being asked to write about such a serious issue has put pressure and stress on me. I was nervous and worried that I wouldn’t get my message across to not only the employers of Terrace, but citizens generally.
Canada’s unemployment rate for people with disabilities is a staggering 51 per cent. Could you imagine being rejected (from employment) simply because of something you can’t help?
In speaking with Jevon, he said “growing up with CP has its ups and downs, like other people’s challenges but it is certainly more challenging.”
I asked if he could be anything, what it would be? He replied, “Probably a public speaker/youth worker because I want to help people understand that because one has differences, it doesn’t mean one cannot accomplish many things. I don’t like the word ‘disabled,’ it seems so wrong. We’re all the same; I have my way of doing things, just like you have yours.”
Growing up, doctors prepared Jevon’s parents for the worst. They were told there was a chance that Jevon could end up in a wheelchair and never talk. “But my parents didn’t believe that, they found me the best help available and have been a very supportive family.”
Jevon had tried to gain employment at a local company a few years ago, but says, “It wasn’t a good fit for me. I felt like they just didn’t fully understand where I was coming from.” He also stated, “After that experience I started to focus on what I could learn. I tried looking for myself, but it’s hard when you have differences. Cerebral Palsy has affected me ‘big time,’ but I would have to say that I am a lot stronger now because of it. Having CP can be challenging at times.”Jevon just wants to be accepted as he is by our community, but many people are very narrow minded.
People have no idea what this bright 24-year-old is capable of. I don’t believe he should be declined a job or a career because he walks slightly differently or speaks a little slower. Jevon should have the chance to accomplish amazing things just like everyone else in our judgmental world. It shouldn’t be as difficult as it is for Jevon to obtain meaningful employment. When having the privilege to meet Jevon, talk to him and I hope when you do, you won’t just see him as different or that he has a disability. You will see him as I do, as an intelligent and kind person.
Open your minds to all individuals; this is an evolution and look how far we’ve already come. It’s amazing what a little acceptance can do. I sincerely hope that what I have written today has opened eyes, touched hearts, and aroused possible worthy employers. Do you know of employers who could offer a position for Jevon? Thank you in advance if you can.
Mackenzie Mohr is a classmate of Jevon MacLellan’s in the jobs option program of the Terrace and District Community Services Society. It’s a 10-week program designed to highlight a person’s job readiness skills in preparation for employment.
Mohr, 21, is a Parkside Secondary graduate.