When I turned 16 in September of 2015, I already knew that I most likely wasn’t going to get my driver’s license, at least not right away. I held onto the belief that I would be gainfully employed at least part-time within the next couple of years. It was bittersweet watching my peers be able to get a job. I wanted to be able to work and start saving up money. I knew that I was a hardworking individual. However, because of my disability, many employers won’t hire me.
After graduating from high school in June of 2018, I was brimming with hope, knowing that I had been accepted to a state university. My lifelong dream of pursuing a college degree was coming true. The years of hard work seemed to be paying off. By December of 2018, I had chosen to study communications with the hopes of one day working in a public relations firm. I enjoy writing, public speaking, and interacting with different people. So, I figured that might be a good fit for me.
I had tried to coordinate a work experience the summer after my freshman year of college. I had always been told that experience in your chosen field was critical to gain during college. The woman was interested in having me work with her publishing company. Unfortunately, she workes out of her home, which isn’t wheelchair accessible. I felt defeated. Later that year, in December of 2019, I began to pursue looking for paid work.
I applied to all of the so-called “easy jobs” at first, including working in a fast-food restaurant and retail. One by one, the rejection e-mails started to appear in my inbox. I was rejected by Wendy’s, Target, and Walmart, among many others. I was not about to give up. Almost two years later, I’m still unemployed. Sometimes employers were interested in interviewing me until I told them that I have CP. Discrimination based on disability is illegal. However, this doesn’t seem to stop employers from doing it anyway. As more and more time has passed, I’ve genuinely begun to wonder whether or not I am worthy of paid employment. I am a 21-year-old woman. In my opinion, practically every young person my age has worked at some point in their lives. It’s tough now especially given the fact that my younger sibling, who is in high school, works part-time in a fast-food restaurant. It’s just their first job, but still, it’s hard to see my younger sibling become employed before me.
I want people to understand many disabled people do want to work. My disability doesn’t mean that I am automatically prevented from being employed. It might mean that I need accommodations to do my job. Needing accommodations to be able to work doesn’t mean that I am incapable of working.
“Your Rights at WORK: AFL-CIO.” AFL, The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, 22 Feb. 2013, aflcio.org/reports/your-rights-work.