A different version of this blog post was first published as an article in the Chariot, January 2011
My name is Jeremy and I’m a 22 year old student at MiraCosta College. Being a student with a disability, the road to being a college graduate is a lengthy one full of road blocks. However the counselors in Disabled Students Program & Services (DSPS) and laws including the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) make it a possibility for those who are smart, and brightly able to advocate for their needs. Just like my sister who is a freshman at UC Davis, I want an education. Kindly I must admit that although my nice sister worked very hard to get a spot at a prestigious university, I had to work much harder to get the opportunity to attend even a community college. Even now my family struggles to provide a one on one communication support person to take me to classes. Under the Individual with Disabilities Act in Education (IDEA), I was provided a paraprofessional aide in high school trained in my communication support needs at the recommendation of the Individual Education Program (IEP) team members. Now out of the K-12 school system, and transitioning into adult services, I am still waiting to learn how the responsible adult agencies will provide the supports I need to get a college education (and earn a living) as this support is not a responsibility of the DSPS. DSPS nicely provides the accommodations but not the support person that a student like me needs. (In my next article, I will write about the different ways in which DSPS nicely supports students with disabilities at MiraCosta College).
My communication support partners are necessary because I need help with my motor planning and my sensory challenges like a person with no muscle control needs a wheelchair. Just like some people in wheelchair need someone to push them, I need someone to help me with my motor issues. I may not appear smart but my brain functions well. Just because I have problem controlling my movements is not a reason to deprive me an education and a career.
As an adult with a developmental disability, I have the right under the Lanterman Act to live in my community as any neurotypical person does. The Lanterman Act was passed in California in 1977 and gives people with developmental disabilities the rights and supports needed to live as independent a life as possible. The CA regional centers are mandated to ensure that we get the supports we need to live in our communities. However, when the Lanterman Act was voted in, adult services were probably not expecting people like me to be able to learn and get an education. It was easier to place them in sheltered workshops when they left the k-12 school districts. Now, under IDEA, education services have improved for students with disabilities and many were able to graduate. Although the quality of education has improved greatly over the years, it does not appear as if adult services has kept up with those changes. The problem is a national one as well as a state one.
Nicely I need to explain that people like me in the past did not get an education at school; they learned to sit quietly in groups. Now people like me are leaving the school system with the desire to live a fully included life in the community like any other human being. Unfortunately, adult services like the Regional Center has not kept up with this reality. The present state budget problems make it worse; but the real problem lies greatly with the system’s attitude.
My mom justifies the lack of supports at the time I am writing this by saying it’s a game. Frankly, I do not believe the government has the right to play games with my rights. Greatly I am very upset at my mom because she was talking about moving out so I could have services because it appears that the San Diego Regional Center makes it easier to support people if they did not live at home with their parents. The thing is, the Lanterman Act exists to help people with developmental disabilities to be able to stay in their home communities and with their family if they wanted to. However, it is set up here in San Diego that I might have to live away from my mom to get the supports I need.
Frankly the rights of all disabled persons are covered by various laws, but it is also founded on the Declaration of Independence. The authors of that document believed that all men were created equal and that every person had the right of pursuit of happiness. What makes me happy is learning and also writing in order to earn a living. This is not an unrealistic goal; I already have a book contract to have a book published by Macmillan in 2012.
Nicely, MiraCosta Collge is a wonderful place for me to learn and get an education and to work on my goals of transferring to a four year college. I want to earn a living as a writer so I can be a productive member of society. I am grateful for the patience of the teachers and students as well as DPSP and the accommodations they have been providing.