Growing up, I always had high expectations for myself. As a child, I had no idea just how much ableism would affect my dreams. I wanted to become a surgeon. I wanted an opportunity to help people like me.
As I grew up, I began to realize that many people didn’t have the same expectations for me. It frustrated me that some people didn’t have high expectations. My family and friends encouraged me to follow my dreams.
During my IEP meetings in high school, I felt like people didn’t focus enough on my strengths. For example, I was aware that I had challenges with math. I knew I wouldn’t be an engineer or computer programmer. There are plenty of other careers that don’t involve complex math. It is okay if I don’t know calculus or trigonometry.
Cerebral Palsy makes it impossible to be a surgeon, but this doesn’t mean I won’t have a meaningful career. I had no idea how hard it is for disabled people to find work. I’ve been looking for work for the past three years, and haven’t found anything. Many people seem surprised that I want to work. I am capable of working, and I wish people understood that. Too often, people don’t want to interview me once they find out that I have Cerebral Palsy. I have been turned down many times since 2019. I’ve been turned away from secretary positions, host positions, and cashier positions, among others.
It’s no surprise that only 19.1% of individuals with disabilities were employed last year. Therefore, the unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities in 2021 was 80.9%. It is hard for me to remain optimistic with statistics like those. Employers’ discriminatory actions aren’t the fault of disabled people.
Growing up, I assumed that I would go to college, and get a job afterward. I thought I might get married and have kids as well. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I learned that marriage isn’t a right for all Americans. Many disabled people who rely on programs including Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are still unable to marry without their benefits being reduced or eliminated.
People shouldn’t have between marriage and their survival. If I were to lose Medicaid, I’d lose my PCAs. I would be unable to live in my apartment without Medicaid. Medicaid’s Home And Community-Based services allow disabled people to live at home rather than in a nursing home or other facility.
Society needs to have high expectations for those with disabilities. Ableism is a seemingly insurmountable barrier at times. Ableism holds disabled people back more than you might think. Disabled people deserve equal opportunities! We are your mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, neighbors, and friends, and we want to live life just like any other person does.
Garbero, Gabriella. “Rights not Fundamental: Disability and the Right to Marry.” . Louis UJ Health L. & Pol’y 14 (2020): 587.
“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
Star, Eryn. “Marriage Equality Is Still Not a Reality: Disabled People and the Right to Marry.” Advocacy Monitor, National Council on Independent Living, 14 Nov. 2019, advocacymonitor.com/marriage-equality-is-still-not-a-reality-disabled-people-and-the-right-to-marry/.