Punished for being disabled

You make the decision to have children, and from that point, your children consume you. You want to give them every opportunity. You want them to succeed. You ultimately want them to be happy and healthy.

But when you’re a disabled parent, you’re often punished for daring to be disabled.

My husband and I both have a disability that prohibits us from driving. In addition, I have health conditions making physical movement challenging at times. We have two boys who attend public school.

Our third-grade son receives bus services through his IEP. The other is in preschool and does not have an IEP. Since a bus already picks up and drops off at our house, I requested the preschooler be allowed to take the bus with his brother. The request was denied. Not only was it denied, I was told that the school was sorry for any burden, but there is nothing it can do. No other solution was given.

I had to do my own research and contact people to find someone who can potentially assist with this situation. Turns out, our school has a family outreach liaison. I had to dig for this resource myself though. None of the multiple people with my son’s school I reached out too mentioned the family outreach liaison.

Now, my older son who is also disabled is going to lose bus services. Despite our requests and the recommendations of his therapist, the school no longer believes our son requires certain services, including transportation.

Both my children are currently without transportation to and from school, and I’m at a loss for what to do.

When I mention this to non-disabled family and friends, they are shocked, not understanding how this can be. Well, welcome to living as a disabled person. Despite 25% of the U. S. population being disabled, and disability being the largest minority group in the country, we are still contending with ableist systems and ideals.

Disabled needs are not special needs. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equitable treatment that gives us equal access.

Our public school claims to foster environments where diversity, equity and inclusion are integral to its academic systems. But I look around as a disabled parent with a disabled child and fail to see how disability is adequately embedded into any diversity, inclusion and equity endeavor.

For every non-disabled person who gasps and exclaims at my stories of ableism, you do realize you can demand change, right? Anyone can become disabled at any point in life. Demanding fair and equitable access for all disabilities ensures everyone’s needs are met. 

It’s not jus my responsibility, or just the responsibility of other disabled people. You understand this is our life? We have been taking on these ableist systems our entire life. We need non-disabled people to truly be allies and take on this action as well. Stop recommending long-term solutions to me like reaching out to politicians and fostering legislation to help disabled people as if you have no responsibility to initiate this yourself.

It should not be this hard to transport my children to school. I should not have to constantly fight for equal access. Breaking barriers is exhausting, and I want to give up. But I have two children, and I want to give them every opportunity.

The fact that I feel this way, that I’m fighting so hard though proves that I’m being punished for being disabled.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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