As a kid, I was not as aware of the limitations that my Cerebral Palsy would place on me. I knew I was different, but didn’t seem to mind all that much. As I grew up reality because much more clear. Adulthood seemed to happen quickly. I had no idea how challenging navigating the bureaucratic systems is. I realized that basic things such as PCAs were hard to find and retain. You can’t focus on schoolwork when you’re worried about using the restroom.
Sometimes, my mom would have to adjust her work schedule to drive me to the college. It is an awful feeling to feel like you are a burden to your own mother and everybody else, but unfortunately nothing new. I’ve felt like a burden as far back as I remember. I saw how hard my parents fought and still do, and I feel incredibly grateful, but also like I’m shouldering them with an unnecessary burden. Years of fighting for me feels unfair.
In 2019, the hashtag #WhyDisabledPeopleDropout began circulating on Twitter. As I read the stories, I could sympathize with many of them. Even though I need accommodations in college it often feels like I’m asking for too much. Professors are sometimes unwilling to be flexible and work with you, and your peers can see your accommodations as some significant advantage. During my freshman year of college, a peer noticed that I took exams in a separate room and said it was unfair.
I worry even more about accommodations in the workplace. I shouldn’t fear applying for employment because of my CP, but I do. According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, down from 19.3 percent in 2019, which means 82.1% of disabled people are unemployed in the United States. I want people to know that I want to work and am capable of doing so. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 28.5 percent of college graduates with a disability were employed in 2018, compared to 75.5 percent of non-disabled graduates. I didn’t pursue a college degree to end up unemployed. I’ve read far too many stories of bright people with disabilities like me who can’t find a job. I wonder if employers think I’d make a terrible employee just because of my disability. They won’t know that unless disabled people are given a chance.
I’m 22-years old and have never held a paying job. I have been rejected by Stop & Shop, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and Wendy’s, among many other employers. It’s hard to watch 16-year-olds work at the same grocery store or fast food restaurant where I was rejected. I was extremely jealous when my younger sibling began to work at McDonald’s. Merely the mention of my disability made employers uninterested in hiring me. CP is not a disability that I can hide, so I’m open about it with potential employers.
Disabled people’s reality is very different than that of a non-disabled person. I want people to understand that disabled people are trying their hardest in a world that often doesn’t want them in it.
Allarakhia, Hawa. “Employability and College Graduates with Disabilities.” Diverse Education, Diverse Education, 5 Aug. 2019, diverseeducation.com/article/151429/.
“Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 Feb. 2021, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm.
Sadeque, Samira. “#WhyDisabledPeopleDropout Explores the Challenges of Being a Disabled Student.” The Daily Dot, The Daily Dot, 29 Apr. 2019, https://www.dailydot.com/irl/why-disabled-people-drop-out/.
Belser, Ann. “For Those with Disabilities, Finding Jobs Can Be Especially Difficult.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette , Pittsburgh Post Gazette , 19 Sept. 2010, https://www.post-gazette.com/business/businessnews/2010/09/19/For-those-with-disabilities-finding-jobs-can-be-especially-difficult/stories/201009190286.
Hernandez, Karina. “People with Disabilities Are Still Struggling to Find Employment – Here Are the Obstacles They Face.” CNBC, CNBC, 3 Mar. 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/02/unemployment-rate-among-people-with-disabilities-is-still-high.html.
Picchi, Aimee. “Americans with Disabilities Still Can’t Land Jobs.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 26 July 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-with-disabilities-still-cant-land-jobs/.
Smith, Allen. “A Million People with Disabilities Have Lost Jobs During the Pandemic.” Society for Human Resource Management, Society for Human Resource Management, 28 Aug. 2020, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/coronavirus-unemployment-people-with-disabilities.aspx.