All of my life I have heard, “Can I help you with that?” “Here, let me get that for you.” Or one of my favorites one yet, “So, are you helping out that disabled girl?” This is the type of things I get on a semi regular basis when it comes to people and dealing with my cerebral palsy.
Ever since I moved to Los Angeles almost a year ago, I have been pushed out of my comfort zone on a daily basis and have done things that I did not think that I could do, especially when it came to things dealing with my cerebral palsy. Although, I will say that the hardest and most eye-opening thing that I have had to deal with is people’s perceptions of me. And there have been a multitude of things that have come up in the last month or so that have really gotten under my skin, that I believe people need to be aware and mindful of.
What is that you ask? Well, let me tell you: Not all disabled people need a caretaker, and just because we have a disability does not mean we are diseased and the person I am going to be standing next to is going to get it. Now, you may be asking, “Katy, where in the world is this rant coming from?” Well I am going to tell you of two different instances that literally happened on the same day about a month ago.
The first incident happened when I had gotten an email to come in for an interview for an internship. To say that I was excited for this opportunity was an understatement. Sure, it wouldn’t be a paid internship, but it would at least help me get my foot in the door in the music industry. But as I continued to email with this person, the whole situation began to feel off. They wanted me to come in on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s until six, and the place where the internship was a good half hour away from where I live in Hollywood. I would do it, but I also had school to worry about as well and I told them that I couldn’t work until six on two of the days because of school. They of course fought back saying that I had ample time to get to class, and I was put in a position where I felt like I was backed into a corner where I had to mention my cerebral palsy. Now, I will be open and honest with anyone about my disability, that’s not an issue. I mean for crying out loud if I had an issue with it, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But I do not tell jobs that I am disabled because I do not want that to be a defining factor in whether I get hired or not. I had to tell them that it takes me longer to get to places because of my disability and I have to leave enough time for that. This is the part that bugged me: They emailed me back and said, “I’m so sorry you suffer from this disease.” Um, last time I checked I wasn’t dying. To me I always looked at a disease as something you can die from, not a disability like mine, where it just hard for me to keep my balance and walk. However, according to online resources, cerebral palsy is considered a disease, just not one that is considered deadly. I was unaware of this until just recently. Even I am still learning things from my disability, even after 27 years. I ended up still setting up an appointment to have an interview, but after a couple of days I cancelled it because it just didn’t feel right going after everything that happened.
While I was dealing with the email situation, my roommate and I were doing laundry. After going to go check on the clothes, my roommate came back in and had told me of a conversation that she had with one of the other people in the apartment building while she was down there. They had actually asked about me. They had seen me around with my roommate and they thought that my roommate was my caretaker. Now, this is not the first time that this has happened. We will be out and about and people will just assume that she is my caretaker. I am setting the record straight right now. She is my best friend and roommate, not my caretaker. I do not and have I never needed a caretaker to take care of me in all my 27 years of life. My parents raised me to be strong and independent and I believe that they did a pretty damn good job. It can be very upsetting for me, as well as my roommate, and other people who I am close to because we can see what I am capable of and to have people assume that I cannot do things can be hurtful.
The positive that I take out of both of these situations is that I have a chance to share my story and show people who I am not some sick person who cannot do anything for themselves. I was able to tell the person I was emailing that there was no need or reason to feel sorry for me, that I am still the same Katy that will work her ass off when it comes to a job and that I do not give up easily.
I just want to encourage anybody that does see somebody who is disabled to not automatically jump to conclusions about whether they are sick, or cannot do things for themselves. Yes, there are people out there who have diseases, which make them not feel well on a daily basis, and yes, there are people out there who do need some extra help and do need a caretaker, but that does not mean that everyone does. I encourage you to get to know the persons story before you jump to such conclusions. I can tell you that it would make the persons day if you did something just as simple as that. Who knows you may make a new friend just by getting to know them.