Social Question

talljasperman's avatar

How can society empower the disabled?

Asked by talljasperman (19162 points ) January 4th, 2010

When I was in university a psychology professor asked the class this question and I didn’t have any good answers…I thought money and political power would help. Now I’m disabled and I was failed from university because I couldn’t cope with the stigma and social isolation… Now I need to be empowered because I want to go back to university but I owe $25,000 in health care and student loans and I was required to withdrawal from university for having low marks and I have to write a letter to the dean explaining myself If I want to ever hope to come back.. I live with my family and I get $1,200 a month in disability and while my expenses are low I can’t seem to save more than $700—$1500 per year… I don’t think That I will ever be trusted with another student loan seeing that I could never make the $350/month payments…I want to go back to high school and retake all of my science classes in order to change my major to outer-Space Architecture from psychology/philosophy…how do I overcome the feeling of dis-empowerment and get back to university…Can I ever get a second chance?

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24 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Yes, you can. What you need is someone to assist you to cope with school. Here is a web site devoted to finanical aid for the disabled.

Kayak8's avatar

I gather you are not in the US by your phrasing. If you are, student loans are often forgiven if you are able to claim a disability. I would contact your university student services (which often have a disability services component) and talk to someone. Explain the entire situation and see what they can do for you about getting back into school today.

wek's avatar

Disability can be very depressing and financially challenging. Many venues don’t realize the challenges. First learn your rights. If in the US, look up the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Find out what programs exist at your local university along with support and advocacy groups. You might be surprised at how many resources you find, but ultimately it is up to you to have the determination to pull through. I attended CAL for graduate school in the early 1980s right after a major knee reconstruction in a very difficult major. I was on crutches for several months so the disability center started me with a golf cart and later an on-campus parking sticker. By spring I was doing much better so I was on my own. Under the ADA you can also get accommodations that fit your disability situation. Find faculty advocates or student/alumni mentors. I had one very famous professor who changed his class to the video tape classroom and gave me specific office hours because I had treatments that overlapped his class. I will always praise Dr Hodges for that.

galileogirl's avatar

I have several disabled relatives and I have seen good and bad messages.

Most importantly, people with disabilities deserve repect, not pity. They also deserve honesty. not false expectations.

@talljasperman You may not get what you want just because you want it. You have to be honest with yourself and demand honesty from others. You may have equal rights but if you don’t have equal abilities you have to find a different path to achieve your goals. What is realistic? If you are past high school age thinking about going back to high school for science is fruitless. If you left university because were unprepared or unable to carry a full classload, then stop focussing on going back to university. There must be some educational facility in Canada that is similar to American two year schools where you can take a couple of classes per term without taking out loans. oncentrate on what is possible for you, not on what everyone else is doing.

mattbrowne's avatar

Blind women are being trained to use their sensitive touch to help detect breast cancer earlier and more precisely than doctors.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/07/29/german.blind.cancer/index.html

The program, called “Discovering Hands,” is the brainchild of German gynecologist Dr. Frank Hoffmann.

JLeslie's avatar

Unless I missed it, we don’t know what your disaility is? I was just dismayed that you encountered isolation and stigma at school, I find that very disheartening, especially considering you were studying psychology and the students in that field should be more adept at understanding these types of circumstances.

I don’t understand going back to high school, but maybe in your country it is different then here in the US? Many people take college courses with no prior studies in the particular subject. I have never heard of a high school requirement for a college class, except needing a general high school diploma.

I think you should talk to other people with your disability for some advice, and speak with the people at the university who can help and guide you. I am guessing they have programs, or at minumum have dealt with similar situations and they can give you informed advise. Better yet they might be able to connect you with other people in your sitaution who attend the university you seek to go to.

I have a question. You said you owe $25,000 in health care and student loans? I also assumed you are not in the US from reading your question, most industrialized nations have socialized medicine, where are you? I was surprised to see you have high health bills.

wundayatta's avatar

One of my clients is quadriplegic. He has a little ability to move one hand—enough to manage a motorized wheelchair. He’s been working on his PhD for at least six years. He’s had to overcome an awful lot of technical barriers to acquiring data, and he has just plowed steadily through them all.

I’m sure some people dismiss him, and, to tell the truth, he really annoyed me at first. But I’ve come to know him, and we’ve trained him, so he isn’t making uneducated mistakes any more. We are helping him get into the real meat of his dissertation. He is studying the history of disability rights legislation in the US. He wants to see if there is a relationship between news coverage of disabilities rights efforts and the passage of the legislation.

Anyway, to your question.

First. Society is not going to empower the disabled. The disabled have to do that for themselves. That’s what happened in the past, and I don’t see why it should change.

Second. That means the disabled need to keep organizing and fighting for what they want. They need to educate the public and legislators. They need to figure out what they want and push for it.

Third. There are many kinds of disabled; many of them receiving disability payments; and they need to cooperate because they have different needs.

The moral of the story is that it won’t be given to you, and you need to organize, and you have to be smart and educated if you are going to win any more empowerment.

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie yes I am from Canada…the health bills are only $3000 in un-paid health insurance…I will try and pay them over time…and $21,000 in student loans.

My disability is unknown its recorded as a permanent mental disability…the doctors gave up looking and just singed me up as permanently severely disabled…The medical community is of no help other than the $1,200 a month and free unwanted medication.

Personally I feel like I just had a mid-life crisis in the middle of university… but I have difficulties finding and keeping work.

I can take the high school diploma exams over every 3 months and it only cost $30 per test… I have been studying for the past 3 years so I guess its only fair that I get the grades for the work.

talljasperman's avatar

@daloon thank you…I will use the money given to me for my disability for on-line university courses…I will get a certificate and then get a better job… then I will work on a general science degree and then get a better job… then I will try for a masters degree and from there I won’t need any financial help… But I’m looking for moral support as well as the skills to deal with my other problems.

JLeslie's avatar

I am a little confused. So you did npt get your high school diploma yet? But you started college already?

You say you have a permanent mental disability, so is that a psychiatric diagnosis? Or you had a brain injury of some sort?

Listen, any type of medical or psychiatric problem is understandably difficult to accept and adjust to. No matter what there is almost always an element of depression when someone learns their life will be different than they had predicted. Depression can make things all that more difficult, difficult to be motivated, difficult to take care of yourself. It is always sucks to realize you have been dealt a crappy deck, but know that everybody has things we have to contend with that we did not expect. I assume you are young, so it might seem even more unfair. Do you know others in a similar situation who will understand your frustration and help guide you? Is your family supportive?

It sounds to me like you have very good intentions, that counts for a lot. Don’t give up, I feel sure it will pay off for you.

In the US I feel like the disabled are more and more accepted as “normal.” I have a friend (well I am actually close friends with his parents) who is paraplegic, you may recognize his name, Mark Zupan, in the documentary Murderball. His accident was horrible, who would have ever guessed things worked out as well as they did. You never know. Stay optimistic.

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie I have a high school diploma but I haven’t taken grade 12 chemistry or passed grade 12 physics I need higher marks for some other courses to get to the University of my Choice… instead of the one I got into with a 64% average.

I have a psychiatric disorder that causes severe anxiety… I was given a professional I.Q. test and was told that I had an I.Q. of 165; It is a source of stress for me since I feel that I should be doing more to improve my education.

I don’t know any other people with my disorder (1% of population) I live with my mother and we split rent and she talks to me when I feel anxious.

DrMC's avatar

Many famous people, often singers and performers have severe anxiety. That they can do what they do in front of an audience is all the more amazing. I think with the right help some things are possible, but it depends heavily on the person.

If you are not in counseling, I would avail myself of that. There is both good therapy and medication for that. With control, you may find improvement, not just in acedemic performance. You have to be your own fighter first.

If you can’t get help in your own system and are planning on coming to USA for help, better hurry, cause US MD’s are pissed off about Obama and might pass you going the other direction ; )

talljasperman's avatar

@DrMC I’ll wait for the doctors to come here….My counsling is limited because I live in the mountains and I get 5 minutes every 6 months on a videoconfrence….and the medicaton just makes me sleepy and phlegmy…But when I sleep all day I don’t get into situations that cause stress

wundayatta's avatar

I’m mentally fucked too. Bipolar. But I say “fuck it.” People who are different in how they think and feel are not different because there is some mistake. We are different because evolutionary pressures are pushing humans to appear in all kinds of forms. Some of us have huge muscles or are very tall. Some of us can’t see the forest for the trees. Some of us can only see the overall picture. Some of us are fearful all the time. Some of us can’t stand people, and on and on.

I believe there is a place for all of us, and that all of us can make a contribution to our fellow humans. What we need is to find the right place to work. A place where our disabilities are turned into talents.

I’m bipolar. I’m really good at seeing the large picture, but I can’t deal with the details. They bore me to tears. I need excitement and new ideas. I need to race through and move on to the next thing. I also have an incredibly large need for intimate support, which seems to require new people to support me, from time to time.

I worked with someone who had ADD, and it was perfect. She loved investigating the little details and doing all that work. But she couldn’t organize her way out of a paper bag. So I told her what to do and guided her, and she did it, and we were both very happy. My next assistant had OCD, and it was similar, although not quite as good a working relationship.

I don’t know what people with lots of anxiety can do well. Maybe they are canaries in the mine—maybe they are really good at worrying over things, and looking for things that can go wrong. That would be perfect in the aerospace industry, or in any other industry where a small thing going wrong could create a huge disaster.

My point is that you should think of your “disability” as a talent. It will help you in some job. Find the right kind of job, then find the skills to do that job, then get that job, and you will be sitting pretty.

Also, don’t worry about not wasting your mental abilities. It’s your life. You don’t owe anyone anything just because you can score well on a test. You owe yourself a chance to live a meaningful life. That’s all. If it happens that it is meaningful to you to do important, cutting edge work, fine. Go for that. But don’t go for a career because you feel you owe something to society. That won’t work. You have to do work that means something to you or else you might as well cut off your feet.

DrMC's avatar

ditto that, bipolars have their place, just ask napoleon.

wek's avatar

Concentrating on what you can do with your “differences” is key. In one program for Learning Different College students tries to teach the students how to recognize which professors have Asperger’s and which don’t. Only in my major, Electrical Engineering, there are more professors with Asperger’s than without, so they tell the students to look for the ones that don’t! Some things like attention to detail are good for Clinical Trials, Chemistry of contamination (food, water, etc), health statistics, etc.

Having an extremely high IQ and anxiety issues isn’t uncommon. Think how much faster your mind is running and how many more processor cycles you have trying to figure things out. Look at the book “Life After Stress”. The premise is that stress happens and it is how we deal with it that determines are body’s responses and if it tears us up or not.

philosopher's avatar

I agree with you wek. Lurve for you.
My Son is Autistic . He is mid functioning but he is smart about what matters to him.
I know many high functioning people in the spectrum. Society should learn to accept and appreciate everyone . I like unique people. We do not all have to be the same.

JLeslie's avatar

I always tested very high IQ, but only slightly better than average on acheivements. My father told me my whole life I was not living up to my potential, still does in little underhanded ways. Just be sure you do what you want to do. I was very good in math and science, but wound up in retail for the first 10 years of my work life after college. Many think I wasted my brain, but the truth is I had a lot of fun working in retail.

Worrying about what you should do when it is not really what you are inclined to do can be very paralyzing and anxiety provoking.

I will say this graduating from high school/college is one of the weirdest most stressful times in life. Did the severe anxiety start recently?

I spent about 8 years with free floating anxiety mostly related to a chronic illness. Here is what I learned which may or may not help you. Lack of control was a big contributor. I was at the mercy of doctors who were not listening to me. I was taking drugs and going through medical procedures that I many times did not agree with, trying to put my faith in the people who supposedly new better with few positive results. I felt sure I could be better, but I had many people telling me I should learn how to deal with my chronic pain and illness, accept it, but I was not willing to accept it, I endured it. Eventually I found a doctor who listened to me and I went through some treatment and got much better. The anxiety became much better. I also quit caffiene, reduced my work part-time, and began to really focus on the days I felt good.

I think if possible you need to learn or understand what is causing your anxiety, so you can try to undue the process. Maybe you are fearful of something? Maybe you mourn something? You have to be really honest with yourself, which at your age is difficult, because it is hard to know what you really want, to know yourself. This is where therapy might really help you. There are therapists who specialize in anxiety. There has been a lot of research recently on how avoidance creates severe anxiety, maybe that applies to you? Of course it could just be a chemical thing in the brain, but if you were not anxious until recently, I think this is somethig you can overcome. The brain is a complex organ. Right now it seems like your brain is in control, I have had that feeling myself, but over time, and with reframing events this can change.

Anxiety is paralyzing as I said above, I know. I would rather be depressed wanting to sleep all day in a dark room than have anxiety.

One last weird thing that I hae noticed, that probably everyone will think is strange. I have a muscle weakness problem, and when I tax my muscles a lot, by working out or just working in the yard for a few hours, the exhaustion seems to cause me anxiety. I have never read that anyone else has the same experience, but I only really narrowed this down because I had quit my job and was doing very little exercise of any sort. Then I began to realize when I do use my muscles I develop some anxiety, and then it subsides. Strange I know, but I just thought I would mention it.

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie
the anxiety started in grade 10 when I had to choose classes for high school…I couldn’t pick what i wanted so I took a stream that would put me in university…the symptoms got unbearable when I took a Bach. of Arts degree and I spent days picking and exchanging classes…I didn’t know what I wanted so I picked everything instead of specializing in a field…I don’t know where to work or what to do in school…all I know is more is better, more money; more education.

The last few years I been happy just reading library books and sleeping 16 hours a day…then watching educational Television (Space science and physics shows from Nova and National Geographic)

I am signing up for a certificate course in Public administration and I am handling the stress rather well…(I didn’t have a credit card so I have to get money orders from the bank)

JLeslie's avatar

@talljasperman So it seems maybe you have a lot of trouble making decisions. Are you very afraid of making a mistake? I suffer from this too. I have a feeling you put way too much pressure on yourself.

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie yes…I have trouble making decisions my family put too much pressure on me that to make a mistake cost me severely…The family threatened that I would end up working as a manager at McDonalds (at best) If I didn’t get a degree…and that they would have nothing to do with me if that happened…I was disowned buy my older sister and I left the rest of the family and moved in with my mother and we split rent and other bills.

JLeslie's avatar

Listen, I hereby give you permission to underacheive. It doesn’t sound to me like you are going to wind up at McDonalds unless you turn this into a self fufilling prophecy. But even if you did, if you were happy and productive and able to support yourself they should not be so judgmental. They are focusing on status rather than integrity and being content. Seems they want to ensure you become some sort of a professional, with a professional’s degree like a doctor, or a lawyer. I have a feeling even if you worked for McD’s you would either get bored or do so well you would quickly rise to the top. I would bet people in the corporate office of McD’s make lots of money.

Just curious, what does your dad do for a living? I would guess he is trying to motivate you, in his mind for your own good, but instead he is just displaying that his love comes with conditions. Well, you just have to think f**k him! My life. That is not permission to do nothing, just permission to live YOUR life and not the one he wants to prescribe for you.

My father used to use the phrase, “one mistake can change your life, decisions you make now matter.” Used to freak the shit out me. I still get mentally stuck when I need to make decisions, but I am better now than I was before.

I see now why you are interested in maybe pursuing science, because of your interest in the TV shows you mentioned. If you are able to go away to school and pursue that I think it will be great.

Can you maybe work and go to school part time? Move out of your mom’s house and live with some peers? I think you need to get away, really away. Start feeling good about some decisions, and supporting yourself, being an adult. Can you move in with some friends in another city maybe? Or, maybe a relative will let you crash for a few weeks while you find a job? I would guess your mom would let you move back if it does not work out. Maybe talk to her.

I REALLY REALLY think you can be much better. Sometimes a change of scenery, actually moving away can take a huge weight off of a persons shoulders. Like a new chapter, everything new. Your parents and family will be out of sight out of mind for a while. I do not mean you should cut them off, just get your own life going. I think ther eis a good chance that if it works out and you call your dad one day talking about your new job and that you would love for him to come see where you live that he will accept you as you are. What do you think?

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie My father’s an Accountant and owns his own business…I get disability and I can keep it while taking distance learning courses. My mom’s supportive and she treats me with respect and dignity…I love living with her. I did run away….from the capital city to a little city the mountains… If I can get thru the application process I am on my way to completing my certificate in public admin…then I can get a better job, then save money to go back and take the courses that I love (or just buy the textbooks and watch DVD’s on the subject.)

JLeslie's avatar

@talljasperman OK, so you have a plan. It sounds good. Your dad is telling you that it is all or nothing, but there are mane shades of grey in-between. In his profession, accounting, you go to school and get trained specifically for life in the job. It is one of the very few degrees that is very much like school in real life. Most degrees are not like that. People get degrees in all sorts of things and then wind up in a different career. People get business degrees and then—um, what business? I offer to you that your father is very limited in his knowledge of what it is like to be entraprenurial, to take risks, to not have everything all planned out. I have a feeling your indecisiveness causes him anxiety, he doesn’t understand it, and he was not able to give you any good advice that fits your personality. If he had let you just explore away, through high school, and not have put so much pressure on you, you probably would not have intense anxiety. You might have made mistakes, but that is ok. Most of my friends, not all, but most feel like they wish they had studied more in college, or studied a different subject. Some regret they got married young, some wish they had children. Making mistakes is part of life, it is OK, it really is. It is impossible to avoid making mistakes. Most people are NOT like your father. Don’t feel like the world is judging you.

I wish you luck. I truly believe things will get much better for you. I feel optimistic, I hope you do to.

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