Olivia's Story

My name is Olivia Davis and I’m a student at the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve been here one year and, no, I don’t know what my major is yet. Really, I’m trying to put off being an adult for as long as possible, so I’m in no hurry to decide. I came to Cal because it has the best program for people with disabilities.

I have a disability called Congenital Myopathy Muscular Dystrophy. It inhibits my muscles from working and I use a power chair to get around. I have had this disability since birth. I also depend on some government programs, like In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) and Social Security to help me be more independent. I’ve been on IHSS for four years, since I was 18. I was paying out of pocket for awhile for one attendant, and that cost me almost $10,000, which I just couldn’t afford. So I love IHSS. Without it I’d be screwed!

IHSS pays for my attendants. Without them, I would have to live in a group home or move back with my parents. I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about group homes. Living at home with my parents is neither an independent nor a healthy environment for someone my age. Even if that weren’t true, my parents can’t take care of me forever. As they get older, they couldn’t take care of me even if they had to. And what would I do then? I worry about becoming homeless.

Without both IHSS and Social Security, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live on my own. I call myself a dependent independent. I depend on others to help me be independent. My attendants do a lot to get me ready for every day. They help me get dressed, get food, go to the bathroom, go shopping—pretty much all everyday tasks.

Before the budget cuts happened, I was about 10 hours short of enough money to pay for one of my attendants. The budget cuts reduced the hours even more and now it’s much harder for me to live my life—it’s really nearly impossible.

Budget cuts happen because a lot of people lack empathy. They can’t imagine being in my situation. So I ask people to realize this can happen to you. Wherever you are in your life, this can happen. Don’t think you won’t need it, won’t need the basic services. No one is invincible. If not you, a family member will need these services. And if the services aren’t around, what are you going to do?

People with disabilities are still people. We have the same rights to independence as anyone else. And if you take independence and mobility away from young people, you never know what they may have done with their lives. I want the ability to shape my future, and I want to be part of shaping the future of the world I live in. I think I deserve that.

Olivia Davis

Photo of Olivia Davis.
More than 150,000 people with physical or mental disabilities live in Alameda County, representing close to 10% of the population.
Alameda County residents with a disability are less than half as likely to attain a college degree as residents with no disability.