Seize life with confidence, activist urges

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Esther Klein
Life Reporter

Ing Wong-Ward, born with spinal muscular atrophy, does not let the usage of her wheelchair come in the way of her career as a broadcaster, journalist and disability activist.

“Wheelchairs are cool to get around in, too,” Wong-Ward said with a smile.

Wong-Ward spoke to future journalist students at Humber College North campus on Wednesday morning and described the hustle needed in the field.  Beginning with the dreams of pursuing print reporting, Wong-Ward learned early on, “whatever opportunity comes your way, take it. If you get a job in the small community paper, take it.”

Wong-Ward told the students that although they may want to specialize in something, they do not know where these small jobs will guide them.

Wong-Ward, a Ryerson Journalism graduate, began working for CBC in 1993. Shortly after, she landed a job on The Disability Network, a radio show offering perspectives on disability issues. It later turned into a television show, when at the age of 21, Wong-Ward was hosting the series. After a few years, the show was cancelled, leaving Wong-Ward in need of a new job.

“I surf-loaded around for a little bit and that is the other thing. You may end up doing a lot of casual work and I would say to everybody, whoever you are working for, make a good impression,” said Wong-Ward.

Landing CBC Radio jobs at Metro Morning, Revamp Fresh Air, and Here and Now, after devoting over 20 years of her life to broadcasting, Wong-Ward experienced a mid-life crisis. At 42-years-old with a small child at home, and losing three close friends with disabilities in the span of 6 weeks, she began questioning her career.

“Am I doing the right thing anymore? Is being a journalist contributing enough to trying to make the world a better place? I do believe journalism is an important part of democracy,” said Wong-Ward.

Although she saw the importance of journalism, Wong-Ward was unhappy with her current situation. She knew that if she was feeling unsettled, it was time to leave.

“Good people will always find work,” said Wong-Ward, and that idea is what continued to push her to find a new stage to her career.

Wong-Ward is now working in the non-profit sector as the associate director of The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, a disability resource center. This is the only such agency run by people with disabilities. Throughout history, she says, non-disabled people have been making decisions for people with disabilities, “which has led to very dark places. Institutions. People’s choices being taken away from them.”

Wong-Ward stressed through her presentation that although she underwent struggles in her career being a person with disabilities, good people who work hard will find jobs.

“Don’t be afraid to show you are confident. What isn’t cool is if you are cocky,” Wong-Ward told the students. Go catch your career and be the best out there, she concluded, but do not be showing that off to anyone but yourself.

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