Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative and inflammatory immune condition which affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide (National MS Society). It is the most common neurological disease among young adults in the world, with women being two times more likely to develop MS than men. This disease is prone to be diagnosed in these individuals’ young adult lives. I am one of them. Since the age of twenty-four, I have faced a downhill battle into disability.
Individuals with MS confront the decline in their physical abilities and, on a daily basis, must come face to face with their inevitable fate, while never relinquishing their hope for a cure. As a young adult, I looked at my future with fear, but decided that I needed to deal with this disease “one day at a time”.
I had already started my family with a loving husband and two very young children. I decided that “I have MS, but it does not have me”. I went to college and got my degree in Marketing/Public Relations. By the time I was ready to look for a job, I was using a cane and I wondered, just from walking into job interviews and seeing the reaction, if I should even bother with the interview. I recognized the fact that I would have an uphill battle to show that I could do the job just like anyone else, I just needed some modifications.
I did find an employer who looked past the physical disability and I worked for them for almost ten years. Even though I had found gainful employment, getting to the office was another issue I faced. The city had just begun installing curb cuts, yet they were not regularly shoveled in the winter . Disability parking spots were not plentiful and became impossible to find, which made them premium spots and usually filled. This created additional steps my cane and I needed to walk just to get to and from work.
These barriers became too much for me as my health declined. Now in a wheelchair, I found a job in the State rehabilitation office, where my job was to work with employers to hire individuals with disabilities. This job was fulfilling and I felt I was making a difference in the lives of many people who never had the opportunity to get out into society and make their own way. However, due to budget cuts, my job was eliminated.
In the 30+ years of dealing with MS and the work barriers which are faced by every individual who has a disability, working from home became my best option. There have been positive breakthroughs in treatment options to fight the MS, along with steps forward in society that allow people with disabilities to live their life without barriers. But there is still a long way to go.
Now that society is in the digital age, new barriers are faced by individuals with disabilities, not just in finding and keeping a job, but in living day to day. Many websites have not been developed with disabled users in mind. Those with physical disabilities may find it hard to fill out forms fast enough when there is a time limit on them. The blind, who want to find information on the internet, use screen readers to try to navigate their way through inaccessible websites. It is now my dream that all websites will become usable for the more than a billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population (World Health Organization), who experience some form of disability.
My battle with MS is not over and the battle for those living with a disability is not either. I continue to envision society making it easier for those with disabilities to live their lives alongside able-bodied people. Let’s keep working toward a barrier-free society for all.
Want to learn more about accessibility? WeCo has a variety of free public and paid single-seat trainings available. Some examples of the training we offer:
- Getting Started in Accessibility
- Improving UX for Users Living with Disabilities
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Jump Start
For a complete list of WeCo’s training events, visit our Eventbrite page.
Further reading from WeCo’s Accessibility Blog about motor skill disabilities: