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Staying Strong in the Face of Discrimination as a Person With Cerebral Palsy

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed. I am part of that 8 percent. Most of my time is spent doing the work I have loved since I was a kid — writing. I’m a freelance book reviewer, blogger and interviewer. I am grateful for each opportunity I’ve received, but as most freelance writers know, there can be a constant fluctuation involving revenue. About two or three years ago, I decided to get acclimated back into the ever-evolving job search with the hope of landing a position in my field.

Having cerebral palsy (CP) and using my wheelchair the majority of the time, I always feel as if I have something to prove. I want to proclaim myself as a contributing member of society. So when I received the letter from a position I had applied for with the city of Chicago informing me that I could move on to the next stage of the interviewing process, I was ecstatic. The next phase was taking a test. I was nervous because I’ve never been a good test taker, but I was determined to make the most of it.

This position wasn’t just for me. It was for my family; it was for my mom and aunties. Receiving the letter was bittersweet, however. Anytime I celebrated an accomplishment in my life, it was with my mom and my youngest aunt. While I was thrilled to receive this news, I was saddened because my aunt wasn’t there to share it with me. She was in the hospital, so I couldn’t speak to her and share my news. Sadly, my aunt passed away. Adding to my already broken heart, I had to take the test the day before my aunt’s funeral.

For approximately three weeks, I waited in anticipation for the results. I finally received the results and was pleased to learn I had passed. Now I needed to fill out the paperwork and take a physical and drug screening. I thought to myself, “OK, this shouldn’t be a problem.” I was wrong. I arrived at the facility where I was supposed to take the physical and fill out the paperwork to find the accessible entrance not working correctly, unaccommodating seating arrangements, and a job requirement of lifting 35 pounds.

Knowing all this, I was determined to prove my ability because I wanted this position. It involves books, and as an avid reader of everything fiction and nonfiction, it would be a dream come true for me. So I marched forward and did the best I could given the circumstances regarding the second half of the job process. Now I must wait. Wait to see if what I did was good enough, wait to see if I got the job.

Finding the strength to push forward can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to find your place in the workforce. But I’m determined to change the narrative. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, I will continue to apply myself and not let minor setbacks like the one I encountered with my drug and physical screening deter me from showcasing my experience and being a valuable member of society.

We people with disabilities find the courage to push through circumstances daily. I believe it’s important to remember that regardless of the hurdles you must jump, sharing your experience could help someone else. By sharing my story, I hope I can help someone who may have a similar experience, or have the opportunity to enlighten someone unaware of the inaccessibility people with disabilities sometimes face.

Getty image by Tommaso79.

Originally published: June 11, 2019
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