Jennifer with a handsome helper (photo: Jennifer Burgmann)
By Spencer van Vloten
August 23rd, 2021
Disabled after 4 decades of living without a disability, the barriers Surrey's Jennifer Burgmann suddenly faced led her to create the popular website A Day in the Life of a PWD (Person with a Disability) and Facebook page to discuss the "giggles and gripes" of living with a disability.
We talked with Jennifer about how acquiring a disability changed her life, her video that has gone viral, and what stories mean the most to her.
First, tell us about yourself
Jennifer: I spent 4 decades of my life as a non-disabled person. In December 2009 I became sick after a series of vaccinations and developed Bickerstaff brainstem encephalitis. I spent 6 weeks in a coma, 18 months in a hospital, and the next few years in rehab.
As a result of this I started using a wheelchair, and very quickly I became acutely aware of how differently I was being treated, when the only thing that had changed about me was my physical abilities.
I was still the same person, with the same needs and desires and wants as everyone else, but now I was treated differently.
I was still the same person... but now I was treated differently
This really got me thinking about inclusion, accessibility, equality, because all of a sudden I was forced to confront these things in my life.
And that’s why I started the Facebook page and blog—to talk about the everyday giggles and gripes of being a person with a disability.
Of the stories you feature on your website and social media, which do you consider the most important?
Jennifer: I’ve been really interested in how the pandemic has impacted long-term care and the elderly.
It’s highlighted the lack of support for these people and everyone should want to see this addressed, because if you live long enough you’ll be among these groups too.
The way I put it is "don’t say you’re not disabled, say you’re not disabled yet.”
Don't say you're not disabled, say you're not disabled yet
I know that physical accessibility is a big issue for you