Home Depot and a golden lab: these two things are important parts of Megen Olfert’s life.
Olfert, 31, of Saskatoon, has paraplegic high spastic cerebral palsy. The condition keeps her brain from telling her muscles what to do, and all her limbs are affected. According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, spasticity affects how people move their limbs and how muscles turn off or on. High spasticity means that all of Olfert’s muscles are trying to stay on all of the time.
Olfert is a determined, life-loving and caring person. When she was growing up, her parents challenged her to do things by herself. It’s because of these encouragements that Olfert has aimed for the independent life she has, which led her to Home Depot and a dog named Flash.
Olfert says she is “eternally grateful” for her work at Home Depot. “Home Depot has accommodated me to the best of their ability so that my disability has no effect on doing my job properly,” she says.
The company added a lift for the bathroom, allowing Olfert to work a full day. It also made her a different desk and provided her with special technology so she can use a computer. Not only have these relatively simple changes given Olfert the ability to work, it has made it possible for this Home Depot to employ other people with physical disabilities in the future.
Olfert first met Flash, a golden lab, about five years ago. Flash is a service dog trained to help her be more independent in her daily life. Now Olfert is less dependent on others. Flash presses the automatic door opener, picks up items that get dropped, and turns lights off and on.
Flash also saved Olfert’s life three years ago. “Flash alerted me about my anemia when I had no clue that I was even anemic,” she says.
When Olfert arrived at the hospital, her iron levels were so low that the doctors were shocked she was still alive. If Flash had not alerted Olfert, she would be dead.
“Flash has become my world,” she says. “I won’t trade her for anything.”
While caring people at Olfert’s job help her to be self-sufficient and do the work that she loves, her adoring animal helps her work through some of the things she needs help with. However, Olfert still finds people misunderstand her.
“Some people think that since I’m physically disabled I must be mentally disabled as well, which is not true at all,” she says. “When people can see past my physical disability, they know that I’m an ordinary person.” Above all, Olfert wishes that everyone would treat people as they would like to be treated before jumping to conclusions about people with disabilities.
Emily Hamm, 20, is a communications and media student at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg. She worships at Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon.