Peer Mentor Blog Post: Higher Education and Employment
Without their Personal Assistants (PAs), many people with disabilities, like me, would be unable to successfully pursue higher education and employment. PAs are instrumental in supporting consumers with whichever tasks within their care plan enable them to live independently, some of which may be integral to their ability to go to school or work. In my case, those tasks are the physical ones.
For example, when I was pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree my PAs helped me, so that I could shower each evening, as well as get out of bed, dressed, and into my motorized wheelchair each morning.
I cannot walk, due to the physical disability, with which I was born, Cerebral Palsy (CP). I drive my power wheelchair for mobility. My PAs further assisted me to pack what I needed for school each day, depending on my schedule.
While I was on campus, my PA assisted and accompanied me in using the elevator to arrive at each classroom.
In classes, my PA took all of the necessary items out of my schoolbag at my instruction, along with my tray — which she would attach to, and subsequently detach from, my power wheelchair, in place of a desk — then waited, either on campus, or at one of the nearby stores, while a designated student from each class took notes and shared them with me afterwards. I would contact my PA via phone call or text message, whenever I needed to use the restroom, which she would assist me with, using a transfer lift, in one of the bathroom stalls at the college.
My PA additionally helped me to procure lunch or dinner, either by preparing it, at my request, the night before, or, more often, by assisting me in handling money to purchase meals from one of the stores near campus or from the college cafeteria, and cutting my food upon request, so that I could feed myself.
Now that I am working part time from home, my PA’s responsibilities include helping me to: transfer from my bed to my wheelchair, shower, dress, use the bathroom, and prepare or procure meals at home, as well as assisting me in setting up my laptop, cellphone, and headset, so that I am able to perform my duties as a CDPAANYS Peer Mentor.
All of the tasks that PAs help me every day are necessary both for me to be able to continue my current employment with CDPAANYS, and will be essential in enabling me to pursue my future career goals. Similarly, the assistance that my PAs provide will continue to be of vital importance when I return to school to obtain my graduate degree.
Because of CDPA, I am able to choose and train my own PA’s to assist me with tasks I need that are integral to my higher education and employment, allowing me to lead a life that I find fulfilling, regardless of my disability.
I am confident that CDPA can be an essential tool for other people with disabilities, who can recruit, hire train, and supervise their PA’s to provide support for their needs in pursuing higher education and employment.