The American Dream Is a Lie

I grew up in a suburban neighborhood in the United States. My father is the hardest working person I know, and yet we struggled financially. I was raised to believe in the American Dream: any of us can achieve anything if we work hard enough.

Little did I know that this was a lie. If one or multiple types of people are barred from the American Dream, then it is not what it claims to be at its core.

Socioeconomic factors and discrimination

There are many socioeconomic factors for this reasoning. To start, people with disabilities face serious discrimination in our society. Every day is a struggle for people like me. As a person with narcolepsy type 1, it can be difficult to imagine a life where I thrive rather than survive.

It would not be so hard, I think, if the world was accommodating to those with disabilities. Unfortunately, the American Disabilities Act protects corporations more than individuals with disabilities. This is illustrated by facts such as only about 20 percent of workers with disabilities who pursue litigation against companies receive adequate workplace accommodations or economic relief.1

I’ve written a number of articles on this topic. Every time I conduct research for these articles, I discover more disturbing information about the quality of life of people with disabilities in the U.S.

The struggle to survive

From the average number of years it takes to acquire disability benefits in the U.S. to the percentage of people who are homeless while on disability benefits due to a lack of affordable housing and a dismal monthly sum from the government that hardly covers necessities.

If you are a person with narcolepsy who is struggling to survive, please know that a huge contribution to our struggle is institutionalized disability discrimination.

The struggle to work

If you struggle to work with narcolepsy, you are not alone. The physical limitations that we have are not character flaws. You are not less of a person if you require accommodations at work or school. And if you struggle financially due to your symptoms, you are not alone.

In 2018, the poverty rate for people living with a disability in the U.S. was over 25 percent.2 That means that in the U.S., 4 million people with disabilities live in poverty. Without universal healthcare, it is difficult for people with disabilities to climb to better-paying jobs.

The healthcare gap

A gap in healthcare coverage would mean a disruption in medications required to function, as is the case for people with narcolepsy. Why then do we laud those people with narcolepsy who have surpassed the odds when they are the exception to the very discrimination that keeps the rest of us imprisoned?

Hiring and firing practices

Supposedly if you can’t fulfill a job position’s basic functions without medications, you are considered too disabled to be working in that position. Companies are legally allowed to use this as grounds for the termination of an employee with a disability.

Why is it so easy for companies to fire people based on the severity of their disability, and yet so difficult for people with disabilities to get the benefits they need from the government? As long as people with disabilities are treated as second-class citizens, the American Dream will remain dead.

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