Growing up, I assumed my adulthood wouldn’t look that different from my peers. I had high expectations for myself. I knew I wanted to go to college to get my bachelor’s degree and therefore increase my chances of finding employment. I had wanted to go to college since I was in elementary school. At the time, I had no idea just how difficult it is to figure out adulthood as someone living with a physical disability.
Right now, I am 22 years old. I am actively seeking employment. I’ve been looking for a job since I was 19 and haven’t been able to find anything. I couldn’t even get a job working at a fast food restaurant or the supermarket. My greatest concern is that I will never be able to find a job. In 2021, 19.1 percent of people with disabilities worked in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That percentage should be far higher than it is, this day in age.
It’s difficult to understand why not even 50% of those with disabilities are employed in the United States. Ableism shouldn’t prevent those with disabilities from being able to find work. Disabled people, like non-disabled people deserve to work. People’s identities often center very much around what they do for work. Being unemployed can make you question your worth as a human being. What would happen to our country’s economy if only 19.1% of non-disabled people were employed?
I also wonder if I’ll ever have a romantic relationship. Will people find someone who has Cerebral Palsy attractive? The thought of being intimate with somebody is scary. Having a disability means that I have to allow people to assist me with my personal care. I don’t particularly enjoy the thought of having my partner help me use the bathroom or get dressed. More than anything, however I wonder if my partner would see me as a burden. The thought of being alone for the rest of my life saddens me.
My disability doesn’t affect my personality. As an experiment, I wanted to see how I would do if I set up an online dating profile. Every inquiry I received had to do with why I used a wheelchair. Nobody seemed to care that I am interested in writing or that I’m a baseball fan. I was deeply disappointed. There is more to me than my physical disability.
Cerebral Palsy should not stop me from living my life to the fullest and participating in society. I want to be able to pay taxes, vote, travel, work, and live life like everyone else. At times though, it feels like this is too much to ask for. I worry that I will never be treated equally when compared to non-disabled people.
“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.