Growing up, I knew that I had Cerebral Palsy. However, I always believed that I could do anything I put my mind to. As I grew up, I realized that this wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, disabled people are often discriminated against too. I wish someone had told me that people wouldn’t always be nice to me because of my CP. Ableist views are very prevalent throughout our society. I wasn’t prepared to have to prove myself in everything I did. People told me that discrimination against disabled people was illegal, and I naively thought it wouldn’t happen to me.
Yesterday, I wrote about how people seemed surprised that I did well in school. It is disheartening when people don’t think “disabled” and “accomplished” or “disabled” and “educated” can go together. It hurts even more when I think of all the brilliant, wonderful thinkers with disabilities whose academic potential has been overlooked due to misconceptions about their brains and bodies.
People who are disabled are gifted in a variety of ways. Yet, because we live in a society that does not expect disabled people to have value, such gifts are frequently unnoticed, undervalued, or unexplored. When the world repeatedly tells young disabled people that their achievement will be the exception rather than the rule, many begin to believe this. After years of hearing about myself in IEP meetings, I seriously doubted myself.
I wondered what adulthood would look like for me. I feared that I might end up living in a group home. This wasn’t what I wanted. I’d heard too many horror stories about group homes. My heart aches for disabled people who are stuck in nursing homes or group homes and want to live elsewhere. Thankfully, I did move out in 2020 with a friend who is my live-in PCA. This arrangement works out quite well.
When I started college, I was brimming with hope. My former university had a track record of helping those with disabilities. This is what drew me to attend there. Over time, it wasn’t easy because I felt like nobody at the university cared about me. I felt forgotten about. If I had more support, I probably would still be enrolled there.
It was challenging when the university shifted to remote learning because of the pandemic. Most recently, I wasn’t given the right help when registering for classes. It took my mother calling the university to get results. I gave up hope of continuing there, and the staff hasn’t apologized to me two months later. I never imagined myself being a disabled college dropout. On social media, I learned that this is far too common.
I have been looking for a job for almost three years. In the United States, Equal Employment Opportunity is supposed to be practiced. I have learned that these laws don’t help most disabled people who are seeking employment. The statistics also show this.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1% of those with disabilities worked in the United States in 2021. This is a slight increase from 17.9% in 2020. Even college graduates with disabilities have a lower chance of finding work. In 2018, 28.5 percent of college graduates with disabilities were employed, compared to 75.5 percent of non-disabled graduates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. My own family told me not to pay attention to the lack of disabled people in the workforce, because that wouldn’t happen to me.
Disabled people deserve to be treated equally. Despite our challenges, we are human beings just like anybody else. We are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, and husbands. Disabled people are all around, and we shouldn’t be afraid of how society treats us.
Allarakhia, Hawa. “Employability and College Graduates with Disabilities.” Diverse Education, Diverse Education, 5 Aug. 2019, diverseeducation.com/article/151429/.
Chavarria, Samantha. “#WhyDisabledPeopleDropOut Shows Obstacles Disabled Students like Me Face in Pursuit of Higher Education.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 31 May 2019, https://www.yahoo.com/video/whydisabledpeopledropout-shows-obstacles-disabled-students-200526904.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.