Once, society viewed disabled people as dependent, unable to contribute to society. This has changed significantly. Today, disabled persons, particularly women in wheelchairs, have begun to destroy this stigmatized perception with amazing accomplishments. Furthermore, manufacturers have developed designer chairs to accent the incredible beauty and strength of these women.
Last year, New York designers held a fashion show specifically directed to display these chairs. The show was hosted by four women who founded Discovery For Design, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women who rely on wheelchairs. One of these women, Marilyn Hamilton, is the co-inventor of the Quickie wheelchair. The other three were sports, arts, and business dynamos who experienced traumatic injuries and landed in wheelchairs.
This fashion show was dedicated not only to stylish wheelchairs, but also to fashionably designed clothing ensembles specifically created to flatter women who spend a significant amount of time in wheelchairs. The “Roll” Models were four women selected from across the country who had become disabled and demonstrated inspirational strength and perseverance despite their health problems or accidents.
One of these fascinating women, Jenny Smith, experienced an accident while practicing gymnastics. Her spinal cord injury, which occurred 17 years ago, has not prevented her from driving, graduating college with a Master’s Degree in Psychology, or working for the Mobility Project, which has delivered over 1000 wheelchairs to disabled people in developing countries.
In comparison, Melissa Holley was working her way through college when an auto accident resulted in her spinal cord injury. She has spoken, attended fundraising events, and campaigned to bring an experimental spinal cord treatment procedure to the United States. She has not allowed her wheelchair to disable her life.
Michele Boardman is a young woman diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. She was confined to a wheelchair by age 12. Despite this, she fulfilled her dream of attending college and plans to become a pediatric genetic counselor. She was one of nine youths throughout the world honored by the Yes I Can! Foundation in 2004.
The fourth model, Rosemary Rosetti, is a successful woman whose life was detoured by the falling of a huge tree that crushed her spinal cord during a bicycle ride. After her recovery, she began to travel the world discussing her journey in living life actively in a wheelchair. She has published a book on this topic, and was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair America.
These women are a tribute to the amazing strength and beautiful journey of which women in wheelchairs are capable. Their story is truly an inspiration to us all.