In 2011, Mr. Davood Salimi, a middle aged Iranian man with two master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, was fortunate enough to survive a tragic bus accident which killed and injured 24 passengers, including his best friend. With tears welling up in his eyes, Salimi asserted “I don’t really remember the exact date of the accident…” After a long pause he continued, “My best friend, and my only real friend [died] in the accident.”
Although Salimi was lucky enough to survive the incident with minimal injuries, his initial sense of relief and immense gratitude were short lived. Despite being released from a local hospital after only a few days, he soon began to notice some troubling new symptoms, namely the deterioration of his hearing. Initially this had a minimal impact on his ability to function, however, overtime Salimi’s condition continued to worsen.
Currently, Salimi’s condition affects his memory, coordination, speech, and has severely limited his hearing. Unfortunately, this has forced Salimi to abandon many hobbies which he previously enjoyed such as sports, dancing, and social gatherings.
Salimi explained that due to his speech impediment, most of his social interactions are relegated to pleasantries and it is difficult for him to have long conversations.
Due to his tenacious attitude, these challenges have not hindered Salimi’s professional ambitions. Since his arrival in Quebec approximately two years ago, he has already obtained two technical degrees from CEGEP St. Laurent in CAO (Conception Assistée par Ordinateur — CATIA V5), and Dessin Assisté par Ordinateur (AutoCAD, SolidWorks).
Despite being articulate and having extremely impressive professional qualifications, Salimi says that his speech impediment, a condition which began shortly after the accident, is the main factor which has prevented him from finding a job. “Because of my communication problems, it can be difficult to fully integrate into the [corporate] culture.”
Although most of Salimi’s work as a computer engineer is solitary, he feels that his speech impediment often prevents him from participating in many work related social functions and networking events. He explained that “from [their] point of view of …they rightfully think I am not suited for the work culture.”
According to Salimi, even the most well-intended corporations are primarily motivated by profit, rather than a socially conscientious ethos. However, Salimi expressed some sympathy with their predicament. “I can understand their attitude…corporations are not social workers, they are responsible for the [company] not helping people.”
Due to these ongoing challenges, for nearly three years, Salimi has sought the services of AIM CROIT (Association internationale des machinistes-Centre de réadaptation, d’orientation et d’Intégration au travail), a non-profit organisation subsidized by Service Québec, which specializes in providing free employment assistance to people with physical, sensory, and neurological disabilities. “The [staff] at AIM CROIT are very kind, gentle, and helpful.”
Due to his hearing impairment, effectively communicating with prospective employers over the phone is often a difficult, if not impossible task for Salimi. In order to resolve this issue, his counsellor, Maria Kyres, often acts as a mediator between Salimi and his prospective employers. This ensures that he does not have to forego any career opportunities due to his condition.
Since its founding in 1989 by Mrs. May Polsky, AIM CROIT has assisted over 5,000 individuals with disabilities find employment and has achieved a placement rate of over 70 per cent. Through a variety of free services such as interview simulations, CV preparation, and skills assessments, AIM CROIT nearly guarantees the professional success of its clients. If you require their assistance, AIM CROIT’s counsellors will advocate for your rights until you are placed in a safe and respectful work environment.
Due to this service, AIM CROIT has received numerous accolades such as the Diamond Jubilee medal in 2013. Additionally, one of the most important factors which distinguishes AIM CROIT from other employment counselling organisations is the ongoing support its staff provides for clients throughout every step of the job search process. Even after the terms of employment have been finalized, counsellors regularly perform follow-ups with clients to verify their overall satisfaction and, if necessary, the quality of their workplace accommodations.
When required, AIM CROIT assists its clients obtain CNESST (Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail) subsidies, which cover a portion of their salary and the entire cost of any necessary workplace accommodations. “Everyone [at] [AIMCROIT] has been really helpful,” Salimi gratefully asserted.
Despite prevalent societal stereotypes directed against individuals with disabilities, Salimi remains optimistic, asserting that “…people in Montreal are very, very kind to people with disabilities and they have a culture that accepts disabilities.”
Although he has been living in Quebec for over two years, Salimi regretfully explained that his condition has made it somewhat difficult to acquire the necessary French skills to remain in the province. He asserted that “Because of my condition I cannot manage two languages…so I decided [I] [will] leave Montreal and go to Toronto.”
In addition, he is hopeful that the generous grant programs for immigrants, provided by the province of Ontario, will allow him access to the necessary networking opportunities to achieve all of his professional goals.
Despite the challenges Salimi has been confronted with, his optimism and perseverance are truly inspiring. When asked about his future plans, Salimi enthusiastically stated “I am hoping to find an engineering internship in Toronto and eventually a [full] [time] job.”
It was a remarkable experience to sit with Salimi as he recounted the many strides he has made, despite his medical condition. I am confident that Salimi’s story will inspire readers to pursue all of their professional goals, regardless of what health or personal obstacles they may face.
Please help us ensure that individuals who suffer from disabilities are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve by sharing this article with your friends and liking AIM CROIT’s Facebook and Linkedin pages.
To learn more about AIM CROIT’s mission, visit http://www.aimcroitqc.org/en/
Alexander Modonese is an AIM CROIT Communications Intern,