Transitioning to adulthood is challenging for anybody, even more so when living with a disability. When I graduated from high school in 2018, I had no idea what my future would look like. IEPs are no longer valid when a student graduates from high school. This meant that I’d lose the support I had been given since preschool.
In addition to figuring out life as a college freshman, I had to figure out how to ensure my needs were met. I had to request more PCA hours from Medicaid to attend college. I had to appeal their decision. Once I secured enough PCA hours, I had to find PCAs. In my first three semesters of college, I went through a new PCA every semester. This was extra stressful for me because I had never dealt with it before. All I wanted was to get to my classes on time.
In addition to PCAs, I had to make sure that I had accessible materials. Westfield State University was under no obligation to provide accommodations unless I requested them. Because you are an adult, it is up to you to advocate for yourself. I had several logistical issues with Westfield State University, which led to me dropping out.
As a child, I assumed that my adulthood wouldn’t look much different than my peers. I thought I’d be able to get a job and work full time as many people do. After my freshman year of college, I tried to pursue a work opportunity with a local publishing company. Unfortunately, the location was inaccessible.
I began to do some research on people with disabilities in the workplace. The more research I did, the more disillusioned I became. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1% of people with disabilities worked in the United States in 2021. My heart sunk when I read that statistic online. Nobody had told me about discrimination in employment while I was growing up. I thought that discrimination was illegal and, therefore, wouldn’t happen to me. Having a job will allow me to earn my own money and not rely solely on disability benefits.
When I was a senior in high school, I began to think about living in my own apartment. At 18, many people are preparing to live independently for the first time. I was no different. I knew that I wanted to move out of my childhood home at some point. Accessible, affordable housing is tough to find. In 2020, this became a reality. I love living in my apartment and being more independent.
I can have my friends and family over to visit and can do my own grocery shopping. I enjoy having my friend come over to watch Netflix and go for walks. He’s able to come over whenever he wants. In the future, my friends and I are hoping to go on trips together as well. We plan to go to The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum this summer as long as it is safe to do so.
My independence is important to me. I can live life the way I want. Living independently is better than having to live in a facility. I hope to be able to advocate for other people with disabilities to live independently. I want to set an example for future generations of disabled people and show them what is possible, because I wish that I’d had someone to show me that it is possible to live your life to the fullest as a disabled adult.
“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.