Disability no setback
By Gercine Carter | Sun, October 28, 2012 - 12:01 AM
Studying with a disability started out “rough” for Ryan Dalrymple. But he has made it with an honours degree from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) – proof of his determination.
Ryan is paralysed on the left side, the result of an accident eight years ago that caused brain damage and left him in a coma for close to two months.
He has no memory of that fateful morning of July 23, 2004, when, as he was driving along the Spring Garden Highway heading home, a car slammed into the right side of his automobile, causing it to flip, landing on its roof.
He was left for dead by a driver who has not been found to this day.
All he knows is what he was told when he was eventually able to comprehend the information during the recovery period.
“Police told me an anonymous said, ‘a car is off the road on Spring Garden’. The ambulance, the police and the Fire Service came and I had to be cut out with the Jaws of Life,” he reported.
In hospital in the ensuing months he shifted in and out of a coma and endured a long period of rehabilitation.
But Ryan says “being a father who likes to provide for my daughter, I was not prepared to stay down”.
He added: “I read an article in The NATION paper by former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur telling persons in Government and the private sector if persons with disabilities are qualified and are willing to work, give them a job.”
He had been a salesman at the time of the accident.
He told the SUNDAY SUN that when he recovered, “I was determined to find a job, and I decided to do social work at Cave Hill. . . . My doctor, John Gill, told me I should study and David ‘Joey’ Harper told me I should do it, so I decided to take up the challenge.”
It was a student intern he met at his alma mater, The St Michael School, who suggested pursuing a course of study in social work at UWI and taking the advice he applied for the Bachelor of Science programme.
“At first I was thinking that I would not get in. I was shocked when I came home and saw the letter of acceptance,” Ryan said.
He discovered his six Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) certificates at Grades 1 and 2 and the certificate in supervisory management he had acquired from BIMAP after his accident were good enough.
He faced challenges and met them head on.
“With my disability, standing or sitting for too long just aggravates the body because since my left side is paralysed, it puts more pressure on the right side, so I can’t sit or stand for too long. It puts more pressure on my back, but I found a way to get around it,” he remarked.
As far as his studies were concerned, he said: “Every time I butt an obstacle at Cave Hill with my studies or getting something done, I approached my department head, my former dean Dr George Belle, or the deputy principal and found a way around it.”
The Cave Hill experience allowed him to see university life through the eyes of the disabled and motivated him to make representation for facilities for disabled students. His advocacy resulted in disability bathrooms being provided in the Sagicor Building and an awareness of the importance of making the campus fully accessible to the disabled.
Ryan, who graduated two Saturdays ago, is advising all to see the person, not the disability.
The 33-year-old is now job-hunting, eager to put his degree to use, but has come up against obstacles in finding work in his chosen field.
But he is not idle in the interim. His days are spent doing volunteer work with the Ex-Military Service Association. He is also a member of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, The St Michael School Alumni Association and the Barbados Association of Professional Social workers. He is an usher at Faith Wesleyan Holiness Church in Lears, St Michael.
Not daunted by the challenges, the devoted Christian says: “I don’t worry about those things. God directs me and I just follow.”
His disability has forced him to make adjustments in his life, but there is no compromise in his approach to raising his 12-year-old daughter Charisse, a student of The Alleyne School.
He is determined to be the responsible father, continuing to provide financial support through the invalidity pension he receives. He loses no opportunity to spend quality time with her, whether it be the bonding while the two take the occasional bus ride into the countryside or assisting her with school work on the weekend when he assumes responsibility for her care, taking over from her mother, with whom she resides.
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