Cerebral Palsy has taught me to be resilient from the day I was born. I was born in September 1999 in Kolkata, India. I was born prematurely as well. At nine months old, I came home to my family. I have had three operations, countless hours of PT, and many other procedures over my lifetime. My last surgery took place ten years ago. I experienced painful muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, and an adverse reaction to Valium. I knew the surgery was necessary, but it was still difficult to endure.
Being disabled in America is very challenging. We don’t have equal rights and must fight to be included in society. Those without disabilities are three times more likely to be employed than those with disabilities. In the US, 19.1% of people with disabilities were employed in 2021.
When I look at data, I wonder why more people with disabilities aren’t employed. I wondered why I didn’t see people like me working as a child. I was always told that a college degree was the key to landing a well-paying job. However, it is hard for me to know that so few people with disabilities are employed. I also rely on Medicaid coverage so I can’t make too much money. Without Medicaid, I’d lose my PCAs.
Growing up, I felt lonely and isolated. By the time I was a teenager, I’d become more introverted. I loved school, and looked forward to my future. I graduated from high school in 2018, and began college in the fall. My freshman year went well. I wrote for the newspaper and enjoyed my classes.
A year later, however, my mental health began to decline. By that fall, my schoolwork was suffering. I wasn’t interested in school and took the spring semester off. I haven’t attended in-person classes since 2019. I am returning to college this fall. As far back as I remember, I’ve enjoyed school. However, my love of school is no longer present. The time I took off from school made my love of school disappear.
The COVID-19 turned my world upside down. It was hard to go a year without seeing my family. Remote learning didn’t work well for me. As a disabled person, it is frustrating to realize that society sees people like me as disposable. I don’t go out much, and still wear a mask in public. It will be very difficult for me to return to in-person classes after almost three years. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it.
I am tired of having to fight for my most basic rights. I am a human being just like you. Cerebral Palsy doesn’t hold me back as much as ableism does. All disabled people deserve equal opportunities.
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/.
Hang in there. I became disabled towards the end of my work life and was able to earn a pension. When I retired at 51 with years of experience and a “gold-plated resume,” when I arrived for in-person interviews in my wheelchair I could see the disappointment in the interviewers eyes.
Grace, you have me at anytime to talk to. Maybe you should try places in Boston for jobs. You can work on-line. Start off with finishing off your classes at Greenfield Community College. Have you talked to Sarah about her Pharmacy Tech jobs that you could go to school for.