"No one is ever going to tell you that they are not going to hire you because you have a disability, but..."
About: Beth (27)
Age Range: 22 to 35 years
Perspective: Student interview of self-advocate
“It’s my life.” Those are the three words Beth chose to describe how she feels about her disability, cerebral palsy. Beth is an incredibly self-aware and intelligent 27-year-old Nashville native who has grown up always using a wheelchair. Beth’s passions
and interests help her remain positive in the face of challenges. Beth is extremely passionate about music, and loves attending shows and meetings artists. She is a talented writer and currently writes regularly on her humorously titled blog “In Case of Fire
Use Stairs.” Beth also stresses the importance of her faith community, prayer and worship in her life. Her interests along with her support systems have helped her live an independent and happy life.
Beth considers her education as one of her biggest successes. She was the first student with a physical disability to attend Hume-Fogg High School. Beth described Hume-Fogg as a, “good environment” where she felt everyone, including herself, was pushed to
succeed. After high school Beth attended Middle Tennessee State University where she studied Sociology and made many friends. She continued on to obtain a master’s degree in non-profit organizations from the University of Georgia. Beth’s education taught her
important self-advocacy skills and provided her with a strong foundation for her current success.
Having a physical disability has made finding a job one of Beth’s biggest challenges. It took her nearly three years after graduate school to become gainfully employed. “No one is ever going to tell you that they are not going to hire you because you have
a disability, but it is easy to figure out when you give a resume that over qualifies you for the job and they don’t call you back after the interview.” Even though she was a strong candidate, she got the sense that employers feared she wasn’t capable of doing
the job. Beth loves her current job at The Arc Tennessee because of its inclusive environment. Working there allows her to fulfill her passion of helping others with disabilities.
Beth’s relationships with her family and close friends have been stabilizing and positive forces in her life. Beth feels “incredibly lucky” to have friends who are so accepting and supportive of her. She claims she has “hit the lottery” with her friendships
and recognizes that without such a strong support system, living with a disability would be much more challenging.
As a result of having a physical disability, Beth has always struggled with others accepting her. Beth said that it is one thing to accept yourself for who you are, but having a disability adds more stress and pressure to be accepted by others. The fear
of not being accepted by others has persisted and changed throughout her life; once she sought acceptance from her classmates in school and now she mainly seeks acceptance from her co-workers and significant other.
One of her biggest challenges has been navigating “The systems” such as social security and to a lesser extent TennCare, Medicare, DHS and Health Insurance. Beth reflects that even though she has “strong advocacy skills and is comfortable speaking up, it
can be confusing and overwhelming to do by herself.” Beth also recognizes that she was fortunate to have parents who were educated and committed to getting her the services she needed growing up.
Beth’s realistic sense of humor about her disability was evident when we asked her to reflect on a way in which her disability has benefited her. She laughed and told us that the first thing that came to her mind was that she “always gets really good seats
for [music] shows and has been able to meet a lot of cool people.” Having a disability has also helped her professionally because she is able to relate well to the people she helps through her job.
In the future, Beth hopes to continue to be employed in a field where she is helping people receive disability services. She believes she has accomplished many of her large-scale goals such as getting a strong education and living independently. Beth hopes
that now that she has a stable job and structure to her life, she will have more time for “fun things” such as travel.
Updated on Monday, March 18, 2013