ARTUR AND FRIENDS
Nicole is the youngest. She has turned twenty and graduated from the secondary art school. She has a two-year-old son and …..SMA. She moves in her wheelchair. Artur has been paralyzed from his neck till feet for over twenty years since his jump into water. The others have similar disabilities. Some of them move physically, others only in their imagination.
Artur Szaflik is turning the age of forty. He slipped during his jumping into water. He spent a year in hospital. Later – months of rehabilitation. He did not break down although he had played basketball perfectly earlier and thought it as his future. He might have endured, as he emphasized, because his acquaintances had not turned away from him. Friends. As he likes to say – it is worth being in a wheelchair for them. He graduated from the secondary school also when being disabled, later IT studies, but he did not find work. Entrepreneurs required his coming to the office but it was not possible for him. He found it difficult to move on the wheelchair. It sentenced him, as he says, to being on a twenty-year holiday. So, he spent his time in front of computer, met friends nearly every day.
The biggest disability
One day his acquaintance posted a message on Facebook with a request for help in redecorating a room of his mum. Artur’s father died nearly thirty years ago. His mum moves in a wheelchair. A lot of people responded to this request. Among them there was Maja Lipiak. A thirty-year-old disabled woman working for the public relations agency. It was time in her life as she was looking for another job.
She asked what I did. I said. She told me about herself that she was responsible for servicing fanpage on Facebook. I told her that I would also like to do it – said Artur Szaflik. – I had some acquaintances. Majka joined us. We began to meet and it was how our talks went on about a possible work. Half a year later Majka ‘’digested” the idea. It turned out that I had become an inspiration for her and found a solution. It concerned setting up a marketing agency employing people who cannot work outside home, as they are paralyzed. In the beginning we were beginning as a group of three people. I was the only person who was disabled. Today there are fourteen of us. We show others that it is possible. We have smaller or bigger disabilities, certainly, beside the ones which are invisible. In fact the biggest disability is in our mind. But when one overcomes psychological barriers, later one can do a lot of fine things. We can develop professionally. We can realize our dreams, feel needed. And we should not deceive ourselves, our disability benefits are not high and costs of our life are high, so money is necessary. Everyone wants to earn money. It is obvious that there is the stereotype that disabled people do not work. But it does not mean that they do not want to. We employ fourteen people and a hundred and fifty are still waiting to be employed. Unfortunately, for now we are not able to employ everyone.
In October 2017 Maja Lipiak, Artur Szaflik and Sylwester Smigielski set up a foundation ‘I am bedridden and working’ and an agency of the same name. Its participants come from various parts of Poland. Some of them are highly educated, others have secondary education. Łukasz Kufka from Mysłowice, suffering from SM, is an engineer and specialist from websites. Krzysztof Białoń worked in mining industry, but is paralyzed after his jumping into water. Now he uses a computer with special glasses with a teether. Daniel Początek, suffering from children’s cerebral palsy from infancy, is an IT engineer by profession. Jarek Jaroszek graduated from polytechnics, makes graphics and websites. Krzysztof Filipiak, also paralyzed after his jumping into water, is responsible for people’s profiles on social media and makes websites.
Artur Szaflik spends most of his time in bed. He begins his work at home at 10 a.m. he works for a few hours. Later he has lunch. Then – he has a telephone duty. He is responsible for social media, he also deals with contacts with media. He runs public relations of the foundation ‘I am bedridden and working’, he is responsible for advertising, communication. He sometimes visits schools and teaches children how to react to the disabled. Schools are open up to these meetings. Children do not have any fear. They ask many questions. They sometimes want to try to move in a wheelchair. Meetings last a lesson hour. Artur shows what private life of his and his friends in a similar state looks like. Children want to know how the person with disabled hands can type on the computer.
Workers of the firm ‘I am bedridden and working’ are interested not in stereotypes but in breaking barriers. They run a lot of interesting ventures, among the others, they write articles, for example, on pharmacoeconomics, pharmacy or medical solutions. They also make websites for clients, graphics, advertising. They are responsible for firm profiles in social media. They do audits of websites, making them adjusted to the needs of the disabled. They promote their ventures: ‘Tour de School’ or ‘Employ a wheelchair user’.
The ‘Employ a wheelchair user’ is aimed at making a contact between an employer and a disabled person on a dating portal – says Artur Szaflik. – A disabled person defines his/her skills, an entrepreneur writes in an application whom he is looking for and for what kind of work. Because I think that problem is in mutual lack of knowledge. People are aware that if they do not know something, they are afraid of it. It is similar with employers. They do not have any contact with the disabled so they do not really know how to behave towards them. Hence they have such an attitude: I will not employ as I will have to make the office adjusted to his disability. Or when he will be working, something bad may happen to him, etc. Briefly speaking, an employer has a million of various ideas not to employ a disabled person. Secondly, what is also a common problem is that some disabled people, if they had an accident when being a teenager, stopped their educational level at that age. But it can be complemented. It is possible to do a vocational course, graduate from a secondary school or university. And employers must feel that employing a disabled person is a normal matter. Besides, they should also take a social responsibility. For, an entrepreneur does not only earn money or employs somebody, but he also takes part in solving social problems. We do not need any mercy
We want to make people aware that disabled people can do the same things as non-disabled people – says Artus Szaflik. – And I think that we are its excellent example, as we are working in a team with people who are suffering from SM but jump from a parachute or fly by glider. Some of them travel. We want to change the society’s look at us. We do not need any mercy. We need a system for giving equal chances.
Next year the foundation is co-organizing a trip to India for two hundred people. Ten non-disabled people are going on it and the same number of the disabled. The dream of Artur is a trip to Arizona. Since his youngest age, the United States has been his passion and he is going to visit it. Today he has a lot of knowledge on the country. Among many works which he has done, he is also the author of touristic routes. Certainly, round the USA.
Translated by Aneta Amrozik