As an adult living with Cerebral Palsy, my independence is important to me. Growing up, I knew that I wanted to live an independent life. My family encouraged me to be independent and have high expectations for myself. I knew that I wanted to go to college and work.
As I grew up, I wondered what my adulthood would look like. In 2018, I graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending Westfield State University. I went off to college in the fall and enjoyed my first year immensely. Unfortunately, finding and retaining PCAs proved difficult. In my first three semesters, I went through three PCAs. It was the first time that I questioned whether or not college was worth the stress I was dealing with.
During the summer after my freshman year, I wanted to gain work experience to improve my résumé. I reached out to a local woman who operates a publishing company. She works from home, which is unfortunately inaccessible.
Following that, I began researching workforce data for people with disabilities. The more research I did, the more I questioned if I’d ever find job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1% of people with disabilities worked in the United States in 2021. This is a slight increase from 17.9% in 2020. The statistics were terrifying to me. I started to question why I had enrolled in college in the first place.
The COVID-19 pandemic added an extra layer of stress to my college experience. I didn’t have access to the support I needed because I was learning remotely. I dropped out of Westfield State in January of this year. This fall, I am looking forward to taking classes at the local community college. My ultimate goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in English.
In August 2020, I took another step toward living an independent life. I moved into my first apartment. At 20-years-old I was ready to move out of my childhood home. It was a dream come true. Growing up, I feared that I might end up living in a group home. Due to my CP, I needed to find an accessible apartment. In rural Massachusetts, accessible housing is tough to find. After doing extensive research, I was able to find an apartment that worked for me. I had a ramp installed, and it is on the first floor. Eventually, I’m hoping to install a roll-in shower in the bathroom and put grab bars in as well.
All people with disabilities should be able to live life to the fullest. Accessible communities and equal opportunities make this possible. Disabled people aren’t second-class citizens. It’s time for the world to recognize that!
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.