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Why I Deserve Full Inclusion at My Graduation, Despite What My School Thinks

Here’s how you know the highs and lows of the week (and life) are filled with strength:
I received an email yesterday letting me know that I’d have access to graduation, but I’d be brought to my spot before those in my class; therefore, missing out on walking in, and celebrating this accomplishment with my peers. In my opinion, this is one of the most memorable parts of a school career for a student.

I’ve cried hard over this news. I think harder tonight than I did yesterday.

I’m 22, and I feel as if I’m still included at the bare minimum, but also left on the sidelines as I watch everyone else do something I should be doing too.

Yes, I use wheels as my legs; sometimes I need additional equipment to participate, but I worked just as hard as any other student “walking” across that stage in a few weeks. I should be celebrated in the same way.

I’ve been so upset about this being at least the second major situation in six months I’ve been a part of where society doesn’t see (unintentional or not) the value in full inclusion. I’ve gone back and forth convincing myself if it’s even worth going.

I’ve also had some amazing opportunities when it comes to my career. I’m grateful for them because I worked for them, but I’m also absolutely terrified that I either have to put on a brave front, or one day it’ll be seen as if I don’t deserve it — simply because of my physical difference.

These are the anxieties and other emotions people with disabilities constantly face. It should not be this way. I should enjoy decorating my cap or sending graduation tickets and talking with loved ones about how excited I am to spend this day with them. I should be spending my days focusing on the doors that will open in the coming months. I shouldn’t have to spend months stressing over how I’d be seen or accepted for something I worked for again, simply due to my physical appearance.

Here’s where the strength comes into play. I am making myself go in three weeks. I also sent an email to my school asking to walk with the rest of my class. I don’t know what will happen. I may get there and be on the sidelines. I may have everyone wondering why I’m alone. I may have people in the crowd thinking that I deserve to be separate from the rest of my class because they aren’t educated on disabilities or my story. I may cry many times even if I do end up with my class. That’s just how it all works, especially if you’ve dealt with this all of your life.

I do know that through all of this, my head will be held high, and I will be proud of the strength I have to show for my accomplishments — even when I have every right to not want to deal with the (unintentional or not) ignorance.

Living in a world that isn’t designed for you is hard, but the strength it takes to make it through each day is heartbreaking and at the same time, heartwarmingly beautiful.

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