I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Brady Koeker from North Battleford, Saskatchewan who suffered from a neonatal stroke. He spoke about his optimism and perseverance: to look on the positive side of things and fight for what’s important. I hope you enjoy hearing his perspective as much as I enjoyed it.
Adam: Hi, Brady. I really appreciate your taking the time to be interviewed. Can we begin by you telling me a bit about who you are…you know, the age, location, if you’re studying/in school/working and maybe what you do in your spare time?
Brady: Hi Adam, it’s great to sit down with you. Currently, I have completed my MA from the University of Saskatchewan in Political Science. I currently live in Saskatoon and I spend my time volunteering for NEADS [National Educational Association of Disabled Students], as well as working on a political campaign.
Adam: That’s amazing! Let’s get right into it then: why don’t you tell me what your disability is so others with the same can relate? However, please only go into as much detail as you’re comfortable speaking about.
Brady: Without getting into too much detail, I suffered a stroke at birth, which affected my eye sight, as well as my left side to an extent.
Adam: And what are challenges you might have encountered because of your disability? What sorts of practices have you undergone to overcome the challenges associated your affected eyesight?
Brady: The problems I’ve encountered are the little things…maybe not seeing certain things in the distance or the questions I’ve gotten that are associated with my eyes, ie “Why do they shift,” that sort of thing. More to the point though is not being able to drive. This is a very large hurdle in life and is quite frustrating. If I’m honest, the best way to overcome this is to not have time to put negativity in my carry-on so to speak. It’s also great to know that I’ve accomplished what I have with these difficulties. If you told me ten years ago, I would have two degrees, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Adam: Yes, it’s really inspirational! It’s part of the reason I wanted to speak with you, as well as to show others that people who have disabilities are capable of doing awesome things in life despite the setbacks that accompany having a particular disability. Given your experiences, what would you say is a misconception about your disability and what would you want others to know about your disability?
Brady: Well, I’d say the biggest misconception is what disabled people are capable of in the employment realm. There’s research out there to support this. It’s an out-dated belief. But this belief is present because of decades of this idea that somehow, we, as the disabled community, are the worthy poor. These attitudes are slowly fading, and I’d also like to say that it’s long past time for these beliefs to be part of society.
Adam: Absolutely. It’s awesome that you’re a part of amazing organizations like NEADS to help give opportunities to students with disabilities. I think you’re doing some really inspirational work. My next question is…what advice would you offer to a student who is struggling with the same thing you have?
Brady: Thank you, Adam. And I would say to keep at it. It’s hard when you have invisible struggles that you face every day. Maybe it’s coming home and your head’s on fire and you have 120 pages to read. Maybe it’s the fact that the building your dealing with has no signage, or at least none that you can pick out. But these challenges will make you that much hungrier to reach your goal. There is nothing better than proving people wrong, and that is something you have the ability to do.
Adam: I hear you! I love that feeling of showing people what you’re capable, especially seeing that surprised look on their face. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to let me interview you, Brady! Is there anything you’d like to speak to before you go?
Brady: I’d say to the community: get active! Get involved in political life, whether that’s a disability-focused organization, your local MLA, or your MP. If you don’t like the policies that are being written for you, or the viewpoints of your current representative, work to get a person who represents you elected. To get the world we want, we need to build it now.
Adam: Awesome, thank you so much for your time! It’s been such a pleasure!
Brady: Of course, it was great to have the chance to chat with you.