During my childhood, inclusion was always talked about, particularly in education. I was included fully in school, and extracurricular activities, including sports and summer camps. I played baseball and took martial arts. I even went to a weeklong technology camp at Amherst College when I was 12. Ever since turning 18, inclusion doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. I wrote yesterday about the fact that I feel forgotten about. It’s as if society forgets about disabled people once they are no longer kids.
When I talk about what I want my life to look like, people often seem surprised. After all, I receive Social Security, so why would I want to work? I’d rather not rely on SSI for the rest of my life. I want to work and be a taxpaying citizen. Ableism is the real reason why I’m unemployed right now.
I always knew that I wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree and work full time. I’ve been actively looking for work for the past three years and haven’t been successful. Cerebral Palsy is, unfortunately, a barrier to employment. Too often, people don’t want to hire me when they find out that I have Cerebral Palsy.
The statistics also show that disabled people are often unemployed. 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 much higher than it is. If only 19.1% of people with disabilities were employed, this means that approximately 80.9% of disabled Americans were unemployed last year. People with disabilities should be allowed to work. Equal Employment Opportunity is the law in the U.S. Unfortunately; discrimination is rampant in the working world.
I watched Dan and Samuel Habib’s new film, My Disability Roadmap, last week. Like me, Samuel has Cerebral Palsy and is in his 20s. The film highlights the challenges that young adults with disabilities face. Issues such as employment, marriage, and independent living have been on my mind since high school. For years, I wondered what my future would look like. Nobody tells you how to be an adult, let alone an adult with Cerebral Palsy.
I attended Westfield State University after graduating high school in 2018. I faced several challenges when I was a student there. I had difficulty finding PCAs who could help me while on campus. I went through two different people in the first year.
It was also challenging to ensure that I had the accommodations that I needed for my disability. After numerous logistical issues, I ended up dropping out of Westfield State. This fall, I will take classes at the local community college, where I hope to earn an associate’s degree in English. One day I hope to be an author or journalist.
I moved out of my parent’s house a month before my 21st birthday. Living in my own apartment is a dream come true. Accessible housing is hard to find, but I eventually found an apartment that worked. I’m very proud that I live on my own.
Disabled children who are included grow up. Adulthood shouldn’t mean that these same children are forgotten about. All adults with disabilities should be able to be part of their communities. We aren’t kids anymore, but we still deserve to be included in everyday life.
“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.