Graduation is when many people are wondering about the future. For most people, it’s a time of reflection, anxiety, and excitement. When I graduated from high school in 2018, my disability made me fear the future. I thought that I might be forgotten about. Unfortunately, this has become my reality in many ways. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are adults with disabilities out there who live independent, fulfilling lives.
At 22, I no longer have access to the same services I did as a child. I am no longer a patient at Children’s Hospital Boston. In addition, public schools don’t support students once they leave the school system. In Massachusetts, this happens when a student graduates or reaches the age of 22. On June 1, 2018, I was no longer eligible for the support provided by my school district. I no longer received physical therapy. My paraprofessional was gone too.
Navigating adulthood with Cerebral Palsy has been very challenging. In an instant, you are on your own. Society doesn’t seem to care about adults with disabilities. In my senior year of high school, I was introduced to my local vocational rehabilitation office.
The goal of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission is to help disabled Massachusetts residents find work. Where is that help? I worked with three different VR counselors, but none helped me find a job. However, MRC did provide minimal financial assistance when I was in college. My second counselor wouldn’t respond to emails or phone calls. After working with three different counselors, I finally gave up. I was very disappointed.
I’ve been looking for work since 2019 and haven’t been successful. I’ve filled out hundreds of job applications in that time. Often when employers find out that I have CP, they no longer want to interview me. Discrimination is illegal according to the Americans With Disabilities Act. Unfortunately, it still happens all the time. I was turned down for a job at a local gym because I can’t lift 30 lbs. Once I disclosed my disability, the manager of a local Homewood Suites hotel rescinded my interview. I couldn’t get a job at a local grocery store because the break room was upstairs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1% of people with disabilities worked in the United States in 2021. In the United States, 80.9% of people with disabilities were unemployed last year. What are disabled people supposed to do all day? Society must want us to collect Social Security benefits for the rest of our lives. I’d rather not rely on SSI for the rest of my life.
I was always included in everything when I was growing up. I played sports, attended summer camps, and went to birthday parties. Inclusion no longer seems to matter now that I’m an adult. I always wondered where the disabled adults were when I was growing up. As a child, I never knew an adult with Cerebral Palsy. I wish I had. It would’ve shown me what adulthood could look like.
When I watched the documentary Crip Camp on Netflix, it was refreshing to see Denise and Neil Jacobson, two adults with Cerebral Palsy. The same is true for the documentary My Disability Roadmap, where Samuel Habib interviews Keith Jones, Bob Williams, and Maysoon Zayid. All of whom are adults living with Cerebral Palsy. We need more documentaries to be made about life with a disability.
My biggest fear when I graduated from high school was that I wouldn’t be able to live independently. I didn’t want to be forced to live in a nursing home or group home. I’d heard too many horror stories about those places. I feared that I might be abused or neglected in a facility. Fortunately, I was able to move out in 2020.
In the future, my goals are to become employed and perhaps get married, and maybe have children. Documentaries such as My Disability Roadmap and Crip Camp have shown me that this is possible. I’m thankful that they were made.
Society needs to understand that disabled adults exist. I didn’t outgrow Cerebral Palsy on my 18th birthday. We aren’t kids anymore, but we still exist. Everyone with disabilities should be able to live their lives to the fullest regardless of their age. Disabled adults deserve the same opportunities as any other 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
Walsh, Mary Ann. “Ch. 688–Transitioning from Special Education into Human Services.” (1985).