Becoming a citizen is hard for anyone, but it can pose special challenges for new Americans with disabilities. During Disability Awareness and History Month, I want to introduce you to Marilou, a Filipino American student at The ILC, who is one such new American.
Marilou is hard of hearing, speaks with a speech impediment and has anxiety. The first time she took the exam, the citizenship officer interviewing her refused to provide her with accommodations. She didn’t pass.
Marilou didn’t give up. With the help of her daughter Cathy (pictured with her mother), she reapplied and formally requested accommodations. She also enrolled in The ILC. Our volunteers and teachers found ways to accommodate her disabilities while studying together. The volunteers used written communication, spoke slowly and loudly, and coached Marilou and Cathy on how to handle issues that could come up during the interview. When Marilou interviewed for the second time, she succeeded.
Cathy expressed gratitude on Marilou’s behalf, telling her mother’s former classmates and teachers, “This is America right here, seeing everyone’s differences and [allowing] us the opportunity to be here in this country … if you put in your work, if you want to be citizens, the American Dream is there. It’s still alive.” Thank you for helping us keep that American Dream alive.
Founder and CEO
The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.