Ms. Wheelchair America 2023 Life – 1 Month Later

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It’s been about a month since I was humbly crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2023.  I’m still reminiscing on the incredible journey that led me to spending an entire week with, at the time, 21 of my competitors, but who are now all great friends.  When I was driving to the competition all I could think about was making sure I maintain my game face because, after all, this is a competition.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, 7 days later I left the competition feeling incredibly humbled and honored to have spent a week with such amazing women around the country who are all engaged in advocacy projects with the mission of making the world just a little bit more inclusive. 

I know I took home the title, and I plan to advocate on behalf everyone with disabilities for years to come, but the competition really was about camaraderie.  I built relationships with women in such a short period of time that I know will last a lifetime.  It’s an experience that profoundly changes you from within.

On that note, I spent the first week after the competition trying to garner as much media attention as I could on what Ms. Wheelchair America stands for.  I then proceeded to critically think about how to spend the next 365 days of my life in order to affect the greatest amount of change with the title.  I spent hours sitting out by the little stream in my community pondering on the best use of my time.  I have a year of travel, speaking engagements, and advocacy partnerships already underway.

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Accessible Pool Lift for My Community – Pushing Beyond Minimum Accessibility Standards

DONATION LINK: https://helphopelive.org/campaign/20851/

Dearest Friends, Family, and Supporters!

For many of you that know me, as a C6 quadriplegic paralyzed from the chest down in a shallow water diving accident in 2010, swimming is the one activity in my life that reduces the chronic nerve pain throughout my entire body and allows me to get out of my wheelchair to swim independently.

Swimming not only helps with many of the physical secondary complications that arise from being paralyzed, but allows me the dignity, grace, independence to have one activity in my life that is the most freeing experience in my life.

After being humbly crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2023 in August on the platform of health insurance advocacy I spend nearly 30% of my week giving back to the community to make our society more inclusive in addition to working a full-time job to cover a very expensive disability life for caregivers, health insurance costs, and much more as many of us with disabilities are unfortunately put in the challenging situation to navigate ourselves.

I love what I do and I live by two philosophies in life. Paying it forward and Human Kindness. I was extremely humbled to connect with 21 incredible wheelchair advocates around the country at the Ms. Wheelchair America competition. Each of these extraordinary women work each and every day, as many of us do, to push the limits of minimal accessibility standards within our country to create a more inclusive society for everyone.

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How to Navigate the Health Insurance Appeals Process “Patient-to-Patient” Guide

I am humbled and extremely proud to have parted with National Nonprofit SPINALpedia. I’ve spent the last year writing a detailed guide to helping people navigate the health insurance appeals process with tips and tricks.

Navigating the health insurance approval and denial process can be a winding road filled with roadblocks at every turn, but if you understand where these barriers are placed you can divert around them in order to get to your destination. This will be a living guide and will consistently be added to over time by myself and many others around the country.

This guide is a culmination of my work over the last 10 years after being repeatedly denied medically necessary equipment I needed to not only survive in life, but to thrive. I have fought long and hard battles for equipment such as total hospital electrical beds, shower chairs, seat elevators for power wheelchairs, functional electrical stimulation bikes, pressure relieving mattresses, and more with much success.

My sincere wishes that people do not have to fight as hard as I have had to and please let this guide help you avoid some of the major mistakes I made along the way, and how I navigated multiple approvals with my health insurance company.

https://spinalpedia.com/health-insurance-appeals-process

Spectrum Local TV News Story – Disability Advocate Draws Attention to Lack of Inclusive Policies

I’m super excited & honored to have been featured in a news story by Spectrum News on disability inclusion in light of recent events with the paralympian who was unable to bring her caregiver, her mother, to Tokyo.

As I always say, Disability Doesn’t Discriminate — anyone can join the club for any reason and creating a globally inclusive environment whether that be in the paralympics, employment world, your community, the government, etc. should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind!

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nc/triangle-sandhills/news/2021/08/24/disability-advocate-draws-attention-to-lack-of-inclusive-policies

The Rise of Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

Technological, societal, and environmental shifts are reshaping how many companies engage with people, customers, and communities.  This is paving the way for systemic change in how we include underrepresented communities in the employment world.

Over the last several months I’ve been pondering and am now actively pursuing a new professional career in the world of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  This is not a new emerging field within organizations, but over the last several years it is fast becoming an ever more critical area for organizations, corporations, and stakeholders around the world to focus on.  More specifically, in light of today’s societal changes we need to strive to incorporate a more diverse and equitable culture for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and the disability community. 

By recognizing the unique challenges faced by leaders with disabilities, organizations can build more comprehensive diversity policies to create an inclusive environment for all employees. Historically, executive level leaders have felt the need to be seen as superhuman in order to survive, a culture that has resulted in displaying one of invincibility and infallibility. This needs to change because once higher level corporate executives realize a disability is not a disadvantage in the corporate culture, the entire corporate structure, from the top down, will make way for real systemic change.

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