According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1 percent of people with disabilities (regardless of education level) worked in 2021, up from 17.9 percent in 2020. I am unfortunately not one of the 19.1%. I’m 22-years old and have never held a paying job. I have been rejected by Stop & Shop, Big Y, Walmart, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s, among many other employers.
It’s hard for me to watch people younger than me working. Granted, they might just be working at a fast-food restaurant or the supermarket, but they can still work and pay taxes. When I was a teenager, I also wanted to work part-time to help support my household. As I’ve grown older, I’ve felt more burdensome on my parents and extended family. My parents have already sacrificed so much of their lives to raise their children.
Merely the mention of my disability makes employers uninterested in hiring me. Growing up, I was told that if I worked hard in school and received a college degree, I’d have no problem landing a good job. Nobody informed me of the ableism rampant in the world of employment. 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. When I found this statistic online, I began to wonder why I’d gone to college at all. I didn’t want to be unemployed after working hard to earn my degree and spending thousands of dollars. After my first year of college, I tried to pursue work experience, but the location was inaccessible.
I am one of the approximately eight million SSI beneficiaries in the United States and have been since January of 2016. Generally, I wouldn’t say I like to discuss this, but it’s important. Receiving SSI enables me to be able to pay rent. It allows me to be less reliant on my family and friends for money.
My Medicaid insurance is also tied to my SSI benefits. I rely on Medicaid to pay for my PCA services which allow me to live in my community. Without Medicaid paying for my PCAs would be untenable, at over $50,000 a year. I would end up bankrupt trying to stay alive.
There tends to be a misconception that those who rely on SSI and other government programs are lazy. I want people to understand that this isn’t the case. Living with a disability like Cerebral Palsy can feel like a full-time job. I have to manage my medical appointments, hire my PCAs, and deal with health insurance and get accommodations when I need them. Receiving accommodations in the adult world is much more complicated than when I was a child.
I would love more than anything to be able to work a full-time job. Hopefully, someday in the future, I will be able to. In order for this to happen, employers need to understand that disabled people can be valuable employees. Please be grateful for what you have before judging people because others do not have what you do.
Allarakhia, Hawa. “Employability and College Graduates with Disabilities.” Diverse Education, Diverse Education, 5 Aug. 2019, diverseeducation.com/article/151429/.
“Number of Recipients, 1974–2020.” Social Security Administration, Social Security Administration, 1 Dec. 2020, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/fast_facts/2021/fast_facts21.html.
“Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary – 2021.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm.