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?
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Getty image by Mikanaka.