More Than You Know
It’s that time of year again. Time for graduations and job hunting for those entering the workforce. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college graduates begin looking for their dream job. Many will be welcomed with open arms to the career of their dreams, and there will be some who are left out in the cold wondering why they can’t get a job.
For those left stunned with dropped jaws over not being able to find a job, many of those are our citizens with disabilities. Having studied the same courses as those who are “fully able” and in some cases, surpassing them in performance, are dumbfounded as to why their peers are getting jobs and not them.
The term “disability” is a load of crap in my opinion. Yes, there are some who have more obvious limitations than others but are far from disabled. I think the term is archaic and needs to be updated. Most people I know who are labeled as having a disability are more capable than a lot of “able” people. They have a work ethic like no other, and in many cases, are perfectionists.
They strive for greatness, just like others only to be seen as less than. I know this because I am one of them. Being born visually impaired, I know the challenges and struggles facing those with disabilities, and many of those are how they are viewed from the outside world.
Growing up I never even thought of myself as different, and I think a lot of that was because I was never treated differently by my family. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that my visual impairment would become more of a hindrance in my life than I ever dreamed. My first taste of this was when I was signing up for college for the first time.
My cousin Chrissy and I had decided to start this adventure together and had met with a school counselor. As we were speaking with her, I mentioned in passing about my visual impairment, and from that point on, she stopped speaking to me and began speaking to my cousin as if I couldn’t understand. I was stunned and livid, to say the least. It was then that I knew things weren’t as black and white as I had thought. It was then that I began to feel that I had to work harder to prove myself.
This was many moons ago, and not much has changed in terms of how others view those with disabilities. It is something I guess I will never really understand. I have raised six children, being a single parent to the oldest four much of their lives. I achieve all the goals I set for myself, and this is a feat because I have very high expectations of myself. As told to me by many others, I am a perfectionist, which I must admit is true. I set high standards for myself, and continue to set the bar higher.
I am intelligent: academically, logically, and creatively. Yes, I am tooting my own horn. It is important that everyone can acknowledge their strengths. If I continue the path I am currently on, I will be graduating summa cum laude next year. I work incredibly hard, so it is frustrating to think that once I finish my degree, I may be able to get a job, or not as easily as I hope to.
After reading the statistics I found in Fortune from the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium compiled by RespectAbility, I realized that the struggle wasn’t just my own, but for all those with disabilities. The 2016 report from the advocacy group shared some startling figures. “Only 35% of U.S. civilians with disabilities between the ages 18 and 64 had a job in 2015, compared to 76% for people without disabilities.” Some may assume that those with disabilities can’t work, but I am here to tell you—you’re wrong.
Those with disabilities are like everyone else. We have goals and dreams no different than the able-bodied person. We are hardworking and capable of achieving our goals as well. The problem is that the stereotype placed on those with disabilities is outdated and based on unawareness. If employers looked at our education, experience, and talked with our references without knowing about any disability, we would surely be in the running for any position we applied for.
Let’s be honest here. How many of you have been out somewhere and looked at someone who is different? I don’t mean just disabled, but someone who doesn’t fit the norm of our society. Our first instinct is either to stare or pretend they don’t exist. I have done it, I am sad to say, and so has just about every other person. If you haven’t, you are a true saint! Those with disabilities face this constantly.
I know that as I begin my journey to find a job, my dream job, I am going to face these challenges. To promote better understanding and acceptance of those with disabilities, I am going to take you on my journey through a series of articles. I will also share the journey of others along with the successes and failures we face whether they are from others or our own insecurities. Come join us on our wild ride!