Thursday, April 5, 2012

Choosing a career.

When I applied to study law at Warsaw University the Dean's Disability Office encouraged me to pick a different major. Not because I wasn't qualified to follow this path or that I couldn't function as an attorney from my chair, bit because other building were better equipped to welcome disabled students. History and English studies I believe they said, for reasons having nothing to do me. I should model my career after their plans to modernize the campus. Isn't it strange that they would think it's appropriate to limit my choices in a way that has nothing to do with my interests and abilities but something as trivial as a ramp or how wide the doors are? When I think about it today it gets me even more upset. How many people with disabilities have compromised on their dreams and plans because they were told that something else would be less inconvenient to do? Yes, I could never run a marathon, but it wasn’t one of those instances. The focus seemed to be on the educational process rather than something you use to reach your life goals. I think that's what made me even more determined to go through the process and become an attorney. I wanted to do something to have my voice heard. I wanted to touch people's lives. It's very easy to be overlooked and disregarded when you are in a wheelchair. My only chance seemed to had been picking a career in a highly specialized field. I loved to write and to speak and I was a hard worker. And it wasn't that challenging logistically. Turned out the law faculty opened a new set of classrooms on the back of the library and they were able to reassign most of my lectures. For the places I needed to get to that had stairs and required moving around, the office provided me with an  assistant. So, we were able to work it out.

The thing about choosing "English studies" or History simply was that I wasn't interested in them. Even putting my dreams aside and  focusing on what be attractive from the job market perspective those are not areas that are highly sought after. You can do it for self enrichment or go into teaching and research, but stairs at Polish schools and other work places would become problems  at the first and every subsequent job. Suspiciously high number of my friends in wheelchairs and WU pursued those majors and I  don't even know what their prospects were and if they went into it because they wanted to. For me it was obvious that I had choose a career that would make my employer overlook the hassles of having a person in a wheelchair. But then, my disability determined a lot of choices in my life. We picked a high school based on proximity although I was always one of the top students and we could've gone for a more ambitious choice in Warsaw. Then, my parents thought I should be a computer programmer like my brother, because he forged the path and if I'd stuck around he would have found  me things to do. Then in law school my mom wanted me to become a notary [which in a lot of the European countries is a type of a non-trial lawyer, while in the US it's more of a secretarial task with a stamp] because she wanted me to write wills and contracts and have people come to me. Because in reality career choices for people with disabilities especially in Europe are more difficult. And you want to fit it and find something for yourself.

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