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January 22nd 1998

 

 

 

Barrier Removal

Wendy Murphy -- City-TV

Wendy Murphy is a business administration graduate, model, actress, broadcaster and, most recently, Woman of the Year nominee. What she is best known for, however, is her work on Wendy's Video Diary on Toronto television station, Citytv. Murphy deliberately targeted the station as a potential employer because she saw the company as being "fearless and willing to take risks." And to their credit, the producers at Citytv haven't tried to hide Murphy's disability, nor that of her fellow on-air pal, David Onley.

At 19, Murphy became paraplegic after a van accident. After two months at the Toronto Western Hospital, Murphy spent several more months at Toronto's Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Centre for physical recovery and therapy.

With assistance from a team of healthcare professionals for whom she has nothing but praise, Murphy started to rebuild her shattered self-esteem, re-evaluate her world views and come to terms, practically and emotionally, with her disability. Murphy says acceptance meant "not looking back at what might have been. I had to move on and stop comparing myself to the way I was."

After her rehabilitation, Murphy returned to school and earned a Business Administration Certificate at Sheridan College. She then went to Ryerson and took courses in broadcasting and journalism.

She recalls that her interview with Moses Znaimer, President of Citytv, was very positive. He treated her as a potential employee, not as a curiosity. "I built my credibility with [Znaimer] over a long time," Murphy says. "I was very, very persistent and I kept in touch." Almost two years went by from the time she first sent in her portfolio to the time she was hired to be a community reporter.

At her workplace, Murphy faces few physical barriers. When Citytv moved into its Queen Street location, the building was renovated with access in mind. Before Murphy goes out on a shoot, she checks with her contact what kind of physical difficulties she might encounter. The station has also equipped Murphy with a custom-made camera which she can attach to her wheelchair.

Perhaps the most formidable barrier that Murphy faces in her life is that of attitude. "Most people make assumptions about what I can and cannot do," she says. "Maybe they think that because I use a wheelchair, my life must not be any fun and I couldn't possibly have a sense of humour...I get a real kick out of educating people in a nonconfrontational way whenever possible."

Citytv has also done a great deal in educating the public and helping to break down cultural barriers which have often prevented people with disabilities and other marginalized groups from finding employment in the media. The station has received several multicultural and community awards since it first came on air in 1972. Outside of being the first station to have on-air personalities with physical disabilities, Citytv employs staff with a broad range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. By breaking with media convention, Znaimer's staff not only better reflects the community, but also brings a more diverse audience to the station.

Murphy, who considers herself very much a part of the community, hopes that her celebrity image will help others feel more comfortable when confronted with "disability." She also thinks that by getting her foot in the door on behalf of people with disabilities, the person behind her can open that door even wider, and others will follow too.

Her advice to other people with disabilities who want to break into the media? "Follow your dreams. Get your education and do the ground work. Have the lust for the work! Keep on bugging the producers. Persistence reigns in the end."

Acknowledgments

This story was adapted from: Miller, Kim. "Re-writing Murphy's Law." Abilities. Issue no. 25, Winter 1995. pp. 38-39. The Canadian Abilities Foundation would like to thank Jennifer Corvese, Publicity co-ordinator at Citytv, for her assistance. This article was edited by the Canadian Abilities Foundation.

Link to: Wayne Ficek - Kenora Kab Service
Ficek, who is paraplegic, started up the company when he realized there was a serious need for accessible transportation services in his home town. After his own accessible van was demolished in an accident, he had to rely on accessible public transportation ("parallel transit") to get to work.

Link to the Gateway to Diversity Home Page
where all these articles came from.

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