I’ve always had high expectations for myself. Growing up, I wanted to work as a surgeon. I knew how vital surgeries and other treatments such as Botox were for me to have a good quality of life. I wanted to be able to help people like me.
At the time, I didn’t understand that Cerebral Palsy would mean that it would be impossible for me to become a surgeon. Surgeons have to have excellent fine motor skills to use medical tools. I can’t even tie my shoes or button a shirt.
I knew I wanted to go to college by the time I was in elementary school. I wanted to have a career that I could enjoy. As of right now, I want a job that involves writing. I love writing, so being able to make a living from it would be a dream come true. In the future, I hope to become a journalist or author. I often wonder what it would be like to write a book, and see it for sale in Barnes And Noble or on Amazon.
Growing up, I assumed that my adulthood wouldn’t look that different from my peers. I knew that I wanted to have a job. I even thought about getting married, and having children in the future as well. I wanted to live my life like anyone else.
As I grew up, I wondered what my future would look like. I wondered if I’d be able to get my bachelor’s degree, and work. Even worse, I wondered if I’d be able to move out of my parent’s house. Moving out is a milestone for most young adults. I wanted to be able to live in my own apartment one day. I knew of very few adults with Cerebral Palsy who lived on their own.
I knew I didn’t want to live at home forever, but I was unsure about what my options would be. I didn’t want to end up living in a nursing home or group home. At times, I feared that I wouldn’t have a choice to live in my community. I didn’t want to be a young adult, and living in a nursing home. I even thought I might end up attending a day program rather than going to college.
Unfortunately, society still has low expectations for people like me. People are often surprised when I talk about my hopes for the future. They are surprised that I want to work, and get married someday. For a non-disabled 22-year-old woman, these hopes and dreams aren’t unusual. In fact, many young adults think about these things.
Does society have such low expectations for adults with disabilities that wanting to work and get married is too much to ask for? I’ve even been told that I can collect SSI for the rest of my life. I’d rather not rely on SSI for the rest of my life, especially when I’m capable of working.
In 2021, 19.1 percent of people with disabilities worked in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year, 80.9% of people with disabilities in the United States were unemployed. What are disabled people supposed to do all day? That percentage needs to be much higher than it is. It is 2022, not 1950. Does society want us to collect disability benefits for the rest of our lives?
Expectations need to be higher for people with disabilities starting when they’re young. People with disabilities are gifted people with all kinds of talents, passions and interests. We are capable of so much.
As pointed out by Kathleen Downes this shouldn’t be surprising. Yet, because we live in a society that still does not expect people like us to have value, such gifts are frequently unnoticed, undervalued, or unexplored. When the world repeatedly reminds disabled children from their earliest school years that success is an exception rather than an expectation, it’s no surprise that many of them begin to believe this lie.
Downes, Kathleen A. Swimming Against The Stream: On Being Disabled in Higher Education, The Squeaky Wheelchair , 14 Oct. 2016, https://www.thesqueakywheelchairblog.com/2016/10/swimming-against-stream-on-being.html.
“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.