I hear disabled people say they want to be treated just like everyone else. Sometimes I wonder if they really mean it.
I went to undergraduate and graduate school and found employment before the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed. I think it has made me a stronger and more resourceful person. I was not provided with people to take notes for me. When I started college, I would take a tape recorder to class and tape the lectures. I'd playback the tapes when I got home and type out my notes. Later, I discovered note paper with carbon paper attached. This made my life much easier. It helped me to make friends too because I'd have to ask someone to share their notes with me. Automatic doors were virtually nonexistent and elevator buttons were well beyond my reach. Again, I viewed this as just another way to meet people. Although, in the winter, sometimes I thought I'd freeze to death waiting for someone to open a door for me
Graduate school was a nightmare. They made minimal accommodations for me. The advisor I had my first semester told me he'd rather see me fail than help me. The second year I couldn't get to the student center because construction work was being done. Between classes, I studied in an office used by part time faculty. While my friends would stop by, I was still very isolated and alone. My last semester, I found out about four courses that I needed to take in order to graduate. My first advisor failed to tell me about these courses. I had to take the four most difficult courses in one semester. Had it not been for the unwavering support and encouragement of my mother I would have dropped out.
I have written in a previous post how I created a part time teaching job for myself at a community college. I began by volunteering in the computer lab. I saw that older adults were feeling lost and overwhelmed trying to understand computer software. With the support of the staff in the lab, as well as other faculty, I created a teaching position for myself. I saw a need and I filled it.
I'm kind of glad the ADA didn't exist when I was in school or when I was trying to find employment. I think having to do things myself gave me a strong work ethic. Sometimes I think the ADA has made it too easy for disabled people. I get the feeling some disabled people think that because they are disabled, they don't have to work as hard. That mistakes are okay. People will forgive their mistakes because they are disabled. If we, as disabled people, want to be treated just like everyone else, we have to work hard. Our work has to be as good or better than everyone else's. When given a job to do,whether it's in school, doing volunteer work or paid employment, we need to take the job seriously and complete tasks to the best of our ability, not halfway. If we do, we'll feel good about ourselves and we'll send a positive message to our community.