How the Disability Community Is Counted Out by Society


When I graduated high school in 2001 I soon came to realize that there was a resounding glossy theme: “You can do anything; you can do it.” Which is true, we can. But they failed to tell us that the world often doesn’t recognize our unique abilities as abilities at all, but rather whether we are expendable. I don’t mean to start this piece off on a negative note, but inclusion needs to be less about how quickly it can trend online, and more about action among those not only in the fields of education and employment, but also in our communities and public transportation.

They don’t warn you about the abandonment you may experience. Aged out of the system. Eighteen years old, and you’re tossed out into a world where they see your unique abilities as a disqualification, and an easy way for them to politely decline you. If you don’t find yourself at a university, what do you do?

You turn to state services, and that’s where the white lie begins to unfold. You see when you’re a shade of grey that doesn’t completely fit in one box, and you don’t fit at all in the next one. And you’re stuck right in the middle of the line, sticking out like a sore thumb. I stayed there a long time, sticking out for everyone to pass over. I realized that what was passing as acceptable not just in our community, but in society as a whole was pretty messed up.

Now, please keep in mind that back in 2001 the options for a higher education weren’t as vast as they are now. That is a wonderful direction to go, but it’s not the only direction to take. For starters, I think all schools, including grade schools, should adopt a variety of life skills-based classes that should be carried throughout their high school years. Classes ranging from budgeting to cooking, sewing, to the process of renting or buying a first home. Without first-hand knowledge of these basic skills, how do we expect our future generations to survive? I know technology will be even more advanced in the decades to come, but the one thing we can always rely on is ourselves and our abilities. No matter where those abilities shine the most. We all need basic life skills to survive.

This is where I felt all the “you can do its” and “you can do anythings” they said to me throughout my years in school were utter crap. And the brutal truth was that the real world is extremely ill-equipped to accept and/or make adjustments or accommodate someone who may need assistance. Too often the Americans With Disabilities Act is being grossly ignored and/or dismissed. I like to call it the “invisible law.” We’re still fighting for the rights of the disability community to be recognized as civil rights. We are falling victim to unsolicited attacks, and often only acknowledged as a five-second soundbite by the media. We are so caught up by what is and or isn’t being said that we forget what’s really important. What is being done for us or even to us? And what is being done too often has a horrific and damaging effect on our livelihood.

Why aren’t we using our voices more on these subjects? Yes, I agree diversity and inclusion are very important, but I think we need to stop just talking about it and start doing more to improve our chances at a life we so rightly deserve. One where quality opportunity is more than just an option, but rather adapted as a way of life for everyone.

I would love to see that as a reality in my lifetime. I’d love to see us as part of society, rather than separated and made to make up our own community for demographics’ sake. Let us have space among you, and not simply with you. That’s all we ask. Why is that looked at as a difficult or almost impossible request? Don’t we deserve a shot at a life with all the opportunity and benefits as the human being in line next to us?

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty image by Mikanaka.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Disability

Person thinking about the meaning of life.

To My Body, After All We've Been Through Together

I can’t remember a moment of my past where I’ve ever felt comfortable in my body. I have a scar that runs from under my left arm up my back from a heart bypass. My knees never quite fully straightened in dance classes; in fact, they started bending backwards. I wear glasses. I’m gender non-binary [...]
Adriana sitting with statues in the park.

My Problem With College Admissions Essays as a Disabled Person

As a 20-year-old transfer student who spent a summer studying abroad, dragging out the old same elegized story of my life as a young person “robbed of a normal carefree youth” is a bit boring. I’m tired of hearing my story, too. The story isn’t untrue or unworthy of being heard; it’s just so often associated [...]
Taxis in Times Square, New York City.

This Documentary Shows How Inaccessible NYC Transportation Is to Wheelchair Users

I walked out of my hotel room and started in the direction of Grand Central Station to meet Reid Davenport for the first time. I’d been to New York several times in my life, but never with such a clear sense of purpose. Reid, a veteran documentary filmmaker, was undertaking a new project with me [...]
Superhero looking towards the city.

I'm Not a 'Supercrip,' and That's OK

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about disability from a social perspective, for research purposes. But some of the points are hitting home, and hard. One concept raised is the “supercrip” or the concept of a person with a disability or other related illness having to have some extraordinary ability to compensate for their [...]