Inspiring people with disabilities to overcome the odds

SASKATOON – The International Day of Persons with Disabilities was celebrated in Saskatoon Tuesday with some inspiring stories from people who, against all odds, have become successful entrepreneurs.

Brett Francis, 24, has struggled with a number of disabilities most of her life including Turrets Syndrome and ADHD.

“You do get judged and you do get discrimination, I mean I was teased and bullied all throughout high school,” said Francis.

Now she’s the CEO and president of Paragon Rental Placement and Property Management, a company she grew from the ground up.

Francis shared her story at a disabilities luncheon emceed by Global Saskatoon’s Julie Mintenko.

“Everybody’s different in their own kind of ways and I think that people with disabilities also need to have a little bit more confidence and use that to their advantage and realize it makes them an exceptional individual,” said Francis.

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There are still many hurdles those with disabilities must overcome.

“Most people who live with circumstances of disability live below the poverty line,” said attorney Julian Bodnar.

Bodnar was born with cerebral palsy and says the unemployment rate for people with a disability is double that of able-bodied people.

He wants to see some legislation that breaks down those barriers.

“I think we need to start looking at standardization of accessibility accommodations in society,” said Bodner.

The provincial government is continuing to develop the Disability Strategy for Saskatchewan to increase accessibility, affordability and availability of things like transport, housing, education and employment.

The public consultation period is expected to begin next spring.

The Saskatchewan and Manitoba Community Futures Entrepreneurs with Disabilities program has also launched a video contest for entrepreneurs with a disability to enter with cash and prizes up for grabs.

Entries for the Just Watch Me contest close on Jan. 24, 2014.

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