Recently, I have been struggling with depression more than usual. Most days, I feel frustrated. I am frustrated because disabled Americans still don’t have equal rights. I can’t get married without losing my disability benefits. In the future, I hope to get married, but I am legally unable to right now. All Americans should be able to get married. Marriage equality is for everyone.
The last time I had hope for my future was four years ago when I was a senior in high school. I was excited about attending college and saw the world as my oyster. I encountered a number of challenges while attending Westfield State University, which led to me dropping out. The challenges began almost immediately. In my first year of college, I had two different PCAs. One PCA was late nearly every day. This was stressful for me, and I questioned whether or not college was worth it for me.
After my first year, I went to the career center. The staff made me feel unwelcome there. I was disappointed when I couldn’t work for a local publisher after discovering that the office is not accessible. I began to wonder if I would find a job at all. Most recently, I had difficulty getting registered for classes.
I am going to take classes at Greenfield Community College in the fall. I am nervous. I don’t want anything to go wrong. I hope to enjoy college again. The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic made college a challenge for me. Remote learning didn’t work well for me. I am concerned about catching COVID-19 as well. I’ve stayed home a lot for the past two years, and catching COVID-19 still concerns me. I don’t want to get sick this fall.
Finances are a concern right now as well. I have had an expensive few months, and living off an SSI check is difficult. I receive less than $900 a month. We also need a new washer in our apartment. We are figuring out how to pay for it. It is hard to be forced to live below the poverty line.
I haven’t been able to find work either, and I’m discouraged. I’ve filled out hundreds of job applications in three years. Employers don’t want to hire me once they find out I have a disability.
Throughout my childhood, I was told that discrimination wouldn’t happen to me because it was illegal. Well, it happens anyway. It is frustrating to me that I can’t find a job. It’s not because I’m not trying. Discrimination is the real reason I’m unemployed right now. Equal Employment Opportunity needs to be a reality. Disabled people should be able to find jobs. Only 19.1 percent of people with at least one disability were employed in 2021.
Growing up, I had dreams of working in medicine. My dreams have changed, largely because of ableism. I always thought I’d be able to find a job. I couldn’t get a job at a grocery store or fast food restaurant. It is frustrating for me to see my younger sister be able to find work. She worked at McDonald’s in high school. I applied there and was rejected. I couldn’t get a job where teenagers work. She will also be working part-time in the fall while going to college.
I’ve tried to remain positive, but it’s become challenging. People without disabilities are three times more likely to be employed than those with disabilities. With statistics like this, it isn’t easy to remain positive. I rarely see people with physical disabilities working in the community.
Society must want disabled people to collect disability benefits forever, even though many of us want to work. I want to be able to find a job after college, because I don’t want to be an unemployed college graduate. For people with disabilities, this is not unusual. In 2018, only 28.5% of college graduates with disabilities had jobs, compared to 75.5% of graduates without disabilities.
Ableism definitely holds me back more than I thought it would. Disabled people deserve equal opportunities. Cerebral Palsy is challenging to deal with. However, dealing with ableism and discrimination is much harder.
Being unemployed has made me feel worthless as I’ve gotten older. In America, it feels like the more productive you are the more worthy you are. Worst of all, ableism has made me question my worth as a human being. I often wonder if I matter in the world. I shouldn’t feel this way, but I do.
Allarakhia, Hawa. “Employability and College Graduates with Disabilities.” Diverse Education , Diverse Education , 5 Aug. 2019, https://www.diverseeducation.com/demographics/disabilties/article/15105185/employability-and-college-graduates-with-disabilities.
Roberts, Lily, et al. “Removing Obstacles for Disabled Workers Would Strengthen the U.S. Labor Market.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, 23 May 2022, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/removing-obstacles-for-disabled-workers-would-strengthen-the-u-s-labor-market/.