Your Family, Your Friends, Your Community

Talking to Your Parents

One of the hardest things about getting older is that your relationship with your parents or guardians changes. When you were a little kid, they made almost every decision for you. By the time you’re a teenager, you get to decide some things, like who will be your friends and what you’ll do with some of your free time, but you’re still limited by restrictions your parents place on you.

Your parents have good reasons for participating in your life — they love you and have cared about you since the day you were born. They have spoken on your behalf and done everything they can to help you succeed.

However, as you get older and turn 18, you become an adult. You become the person who has the final say in most of your decisions. For some people, the transition to adulthood goes pretty smoothly — their parents understand how they can support their children. However, many young people have a difficult time with their parents as they become young adults. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry, it’s natural.

If your parents think that you can’t be successful because of your disability, it’s important that you find a mentor or peer counselor to talk to about your concerns. You should also refer your parents to an independent living center so that they can learn more about disabilities and all of the things that are possible for a person living with one.

Often, money can also become an issue in a relationship between young people and their parents. This may be because they are giving you financial support. Alternatively, it may be that they were used to receiving your benefits checks, maybe your SSI checks, and now those checks are being sent to you. The best solution for this type of problem over the long-term is for you to get a good job and become independent. This will require a good plan and some hard work.

Even if you and your parents don’t agree on everything, don’t reject all of your parents’ ideas and opinions just because they’re your parents. A big part of being independent is that you lead your life, but in order to be independent you need to make sure you have a circle of family, friends, and people you trust who can give you support and advice. Your parents, who have been there for you for many years, are key people in that circle.

Self-Advocacy

To be successful as an adult, you have to speak up for yourself and defend your needs and rights. This is called self-advocacy.

Self-advocacy doesn’t actually mean you have to do everything by yourself. Your family and friends can give you support. There are also community organizations, like independent living centers, that can help you. If you have a job at a large employer, there may be an organized group of disabled employees, or if you’re in college, you can join your school’s disabled student group.

Disability community resources

Here are some great organizations that can help you become a self-advocate.

The Youth Action Council of Arizona (YAC-AZ) is a group of young Arizonans with disabilities who meet regularly online and in person to discuss important issues, do fun activities, and explore new possibilities. You can also follow YAC-AZ on Facebook.

The National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth (NCLD/Y) has information about becoming a leader, disability history, the disability movement, your rights, and more.

The National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) helps promote leadership development, education, employment, independent living, health, and wellness among young people with disabilities. Through NYLN, you can become involved in advocacy at national, state, and local levels.

The Youthhood is a website designed for young people with disabilities that talks about the transition from being a teen to being an adult. It has lots of information about education, rights, health, finding work, participating in the community, getting a mentor, finding activities, making friends, and getting an apartment.

Being a Part of the Community

You will often hear that “independence” is a major part of being an adult. However, it is important to understand that being independent does not mean being alone. It means making your own decisions and leading your own life.

An important part of this is deciding what to do with your time. Traditionally, many people with disabilities were limited in their options. Some people had to stay in institutions; others were pressured to stay at home. Because of this, they didn’t have the opportunity to choose to spend their time with other people in their communities and participate in the day-to-day activities that others do.

However, leaders in the disability community and new laws have changed things. Now, public facilities are much more accessible and people with disabilities can participate in activities, meet people, make friends, and get jobs. It’s important for you to take advantage of these opportunities, because spending time with others and participating in community activities are a major part of what makes life fun!

Community activities include all sorts of things, like seeing a movie, going to parties, or even just going to the supermarket. However, the community doesn’t just have to be your local area. It could be events that take place online, over the phone, or any other way that involves interacting with other people.

For example, there are many statewide and national networks where you can meet other young people with disabilities and share experiences with them, including the organizations and websites listed above. If you don’t know a lot of people, you can also look into clubs, volunteer at an organization, join a church group, or find other ways to meet people.

Finding a Mentor

In addition to groups and organizations, another way to get more involved in the community is to get a mentor. A mentor is a person who can provide you with guidance and support. A lot of people have found ways to work around obstacles to reach their goals and pursue interesting lives and many of them are eager to share their time and ideas.

Talking to somebody living with your disability or a similar one can help you learn tips and resources available to help you succeed in whatever you decide to do in life. You might have a mentor you just talk over the phone with or communicate with by email, or you might have a mentor you meet in person.

You may be able to find a mentor through family or friends. Here are a few other resources that can help you find a mentor:

Legal Rights as a Person with a Disability

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. This act covers everything from you getting a job, to you taking a bus, to you checking into a hotel. It is the primary legal guarantee of fair treatment for a person with a disability and as you go out into the community and become involved with other people and organizations, it may be important for you to be familiar with it.

Discrimination happens when you are treated unfairly or unequally because you have a disability. To be protected under the ADA, you must have, have a record of, or be regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits you in a major life activity, such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning, or working.

If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA protects you from job discrimination because of your disability. The ADA also requires employers to supply reasonable accommodations if you need them. You are responsible for telling your employer if you need an accommodation and what accommodation will work best for you. For more information about jobs and appropriate accommodations, you can read the DB101 Jobs and Accommodations article.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces the ADA.

You can also contact your state’s Protection and Advocacy center when you think you are being treated unfairly because of your disability. Arizona’s Protection and Advocacy organization is the Arizona Center for Disability Law. Social Security has a page describing what Protection and Advocacy can and can’t help with.