My name is Julie Sawchuk, member of the Board of Directors for SCIO, best-selling author and principal of Sawchuk Accessible Solutions. I live on a small farm with my family outside of the village of Blyth in Southwestern Ontario. Joining the board had been in the back of my mind for quite a while post-injury, but making long trips to Toronto for meetings never felt very appealing to me. Enter the pandemic and “doing anything from anywhere,” add a request for new members — and I knew this was my chance to give back.
I first became aware of SCIO when my injury was maybe a week old. It was lovely to meet the late Penny Watson, who was very kind and understanding. At the same time, learning there was a whole organization dedicated to people with spinal cord injuries raised a whole bunch of questions that I knew I needed answers to. Learning you have a spinal cord injury is not the same as getting a cancer or diabetes diagnosis because most people have NO CLUE; they have no point of reference for what is required to recover from and live with, a spinal cord injury. When I was still in acute care I started writing a blog; it was therapy for me, but eventually became the book that I want to be there to help others as they start their journey. Roadmap to Recovery: Finding your way forward after spinal cord injury is available for free from the SCIO website.
I am in the minority of people with an SCI; I sustained my injury in a motor vehicle accident, which allowed me to have resources from auto insurance, employee benefits and the settlement from a lawsuit. Many people (I would even argue most) do not have any of these funding supports, which is what makes the advocacy role of SCIO so very important. As a member of the Board of Directors at SCIO, I plan to use my voice to draw the attention of those politicians and funders who can help move the needle to allow for increased access to medical equipment and supplies (like catheters), mobility devices (not just wheelchairs) and to make all of Ontario see that providing accessible spaces is not optional.