A PERSONAL JOURNEY
The Job Market for People with Disabilities
The unemployment rate of people with disabilities has far outpaced that of people without disabilities. In order for people with disabilities to transition to employment, they need an awareness of how their disability affects them, a support network, knowledge of their strengths and practice in disability disclosure.
While IDEA has done much to integrate students with disabilities into education and society as a whole, IDEA is an entitlement law based, with no need for students to disclose their disability or self advocate to receive services, the majority of students with disabilities, have little idea what their disability is how, it affects them, or will affect them as they move from education to employment. So when they graduate from high school, or reach age 22, and must self-disclose to receive services under Section 504,they are completely unprepared and all too often end up living in poverty.
Children with disabilities must be taught as early as possible: What their disability is, how it affects them, have their personal strengths fostered, and be given the tools to create an effective support network, so that they can disclose it.
What proof do I have that my proposal works?
I was born with mild-to moderate spastic diplegia, cerebral palsy and non-verbal learning disability. My parents made sure I knew what cp (cerebral palsy) was, how it affected me, and encouraged me to ask for what I needed, to accommodate for my disability, surrounded me with people who cared about me and focused on growing my talents in music, reading, historical study, teaching others, and traveling.
Thirty five years later, I have: completed an MA in secondary social studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, hold NY dual certification in teaching 7-12 social studies for students with and without disabilities, a BA in history from St. Michael’s College, spent a year abroad at the National University of Ireland Cork, played Irish fiddle round the USA, and Ireland, learned to speak Spanish almost fluently, and have performed the National Anthem for Minor League, Major League and NBA franchises since 2002.
My life has not been all sunshine and roses. I have experienced discrimination and more setbacks than I care to mention. However, if my life with cp has shown me anything, it has shown me that the four hallmarks mentioned above hold the best chance of improving the wretched unemployment rate that people with disabilities face.#