Four year old Adriel Carignan, was born with spina bifida. She uses a wheelchair. A video went viral last week of a holiday concert in New Hampshire. Carignan was left out of the activity. Her peers were gathered in a circle with their backs turned to her.
Unfortunately, disabled people are often excluded from activities starting when they are young. Many activities aren’t accessible to disabled children. Early on, I was included in everything that was going on at school. I carved pumpkins, designed Christmas ornaments, narrated a play, and went on numerous field trips.
As I grew up, I was left out of things at school more often. After fourth grade, I no longer participated in gym class. There was no way to make sure that the environment was accessible, and safe.
I opted to stay at school when my seventh-grade class went on a field trip to the local skating rink. I watched the Disney movie Bedtime Stories. This was much more accessible.
Later that year, I had to take a home economics class. The main assignment was a sewing project. Cerebral Palsy makes it impossible for me to sew because my fine motor skills are impaired. The occupational therapist provided an alternative assignment for the teacher to give me. The teacher refused. Instead, I watched my paraprofessional complete the project. I later told her that she had received an A in the class.
In high school, I was even more isolated. When I was a junior , I chose to study for my SATs rather than watch my classmates from the sidelines during field day. The same year, my English teacher had a pizza party one day before April vacation. My classmate didn’t offer me a slice as he went around with the box. It was frustrating. The next time we had pizza, however, the teacher made sure I received the first slice.
My peers didn’t include me in most activities. During my senior year, we were asked to do a group project in my government class. I’ve never liked group projects, especially when teachers didn’t assign partners.
There happened to be another student who shared my first name. I was excited that someone wanted to work with me when they said my name. I was disappointed but unsurprised when this student looked at me and said, “Not you, Grace, the other one.”
I graduated from high school in 2018. Since then, inclusion hasn’t been talked about much. It’s as if society forgets about disabled people once they are no longer kids. For me, adulthood has been a lonely, isolating experience.
I’ve been looking for work since 2019 and haven’t found anything. When I disclose my disability, employers don’t hire me. The manager of a local Texas Roadhouse canceled my interview after I told her I had Cerebral Palsy. The same thing happened after I emailed the manager of a local Homewood Suites hotel.
All children should be included in everything they possibly can. Disabled children deserve to enjoy their childhood. My heart aches for Adriel and every other disabled child left behind because of their disability.
However, inclusion shouldn’t end after graduation either. Disabled children grow up. These same children shouldn’t be forgotten as they grow up. All disabled people should be able to participate in their communities regardless of age.
Hayes, Paul. “Christmas Carolers Spread Hope, Love to Local Girl.” Caledonian Record, Mark M. Smith, 25 Dec. 2022, https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/local/christmas-carolers-spread-hope-love-to-local-girl/article_43bc7282-a97d-5a7d-9097-093e35b1bfa6.html.