Going to College with a Disability

Often when I tell people I am going away to college, they ask me how that is going to work. As intruding as this question is, disabled people get asked questions like this everyday. How can we get jobs? How can we own a house?  How can we get married?  How can we have kids? are just a few examples of questions that relatives, friends, and even strangers feel they have the right to ask. Yes, I admit they have the right to ask intrusive questions, but it is not polite. The most excruciating part of personal questions about my disability is that most of the questions highlight details that I have not figured out yet in my life. I do not know how college is going to go, or how I will function in the “real-world” as a disabled person who needs assistance for daily tasks. Maybe I will go to college, and realize that it is too challenging for me to balance speech therapy, a schedule for a personal care attendant to get me ready, and schoolwork. Or maybe, I will be able to do it. Regardless of the outcome, it is not anyone else’s choice, but my own. Likewise, whether I succeed or fail, I will have to suffer or reap the benefits, not anyone else. Questioning me and telling me stories of other disabled people who have failed will only make me doubt myself, and therefore be more likely to fail. Besides the obvious problems with these questions and comments, people who compare me to individuals they know or have heard of are forgetting that disabled people have different capabilities, limits, drives, circumstances, experiences, and hopes for the future. By lumping every disabled person into a general category, people neglect important factors that determine success or failure. For every story of failure I have heard of disabled people going to a predominantly able-bodied college or entering the workforce, there is a story of a disabled person succeeding. Perhaps the people who succeed are fortunate and find the correct college, the correct agency for a personal care attendant, the correct workplace, the correct city, or the correct college or perhaps not all of these pieces perfectly fit, and yet the individual makes it work everyday.

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