My disability means that I need help with activities of daily living, such as showering, toileting, and getting dressed. Despite this, I consider myself independent. When you have Cerebral Palsy, becoming independent is challenging.
The first step toward living independently was moving out. I moved out a month before my 21st birthday. I rented a two-bedroom apartment with a friend who is employed as my PCA. This is critical to my ability to live on my own. He doesn’t help me every second of the day, but he’s always there when I need his help. I no longer limit my fluid intake at home because I can use the bathroom whenever I need to. Having to practice “pee math” is something many physically disabled people are accustomed to. I can have a drink whenever I feel thirsty now without risking incontinence accidents.
My apartment is accessible as well. I was able to have a ramp installed, and I don’t have stairs or carpeting. I can use the kitchen appliances when I am in my power wheelchair. I can also get food and drinks out of the refrigerator. Before the end of the year, I hope to have a roll-in shower installed in the bathroom. This will work out better than the bath transfer system that I currently use, and I’ll be able to be more independent.
I have been living in my apartment for almost two years now. My next goal is to become employed. I’ve been looking for work since 2019 and haven’t had any luck. I’ve filled out hundreds of job applications since. I want to earn my own money and not rely on SSI. I am currently working with my local career center to find a job. If I can find a job by the end of the year, I’ll be happy. Finding a job is especially difficult when you have a disability. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1% of people with disabilities worked in the United States in 2021.
Independence is important to me as someone living with Cerebral Palsy. Independence might look different for me than it does for non-disabled people. However, my independence is just as important to me. I don’t do everything on my own, but I am in control of how I live. Being in control and making your own decisions is what being independent means to me.
“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.