Born Disabled vs. Becoming Disabled: Learning from Each Other

by Alicia Reagan

I was paralyzed in March of 2009. I was married, had 5 children, was pregnant with my 6th, helped my husband in the ministry and led a very active life. Then, I got sick. Really sick. I was in a tremendous amount of pain. I went to bed hoping to sleep it off. When I woke up 24 hours later, I could not feel or move my body from ribs down and my arms were very weak and heavy. Diagnosis: Transverse Myelitis.

Since that time, I have made many friends who are paralyzed. I LOVE social media and the connections that you can make. There are so many wonderful places online to connect with others like me. I have taken advantage of that and tried to make as many connections as possible so that my circle is bigger than just myself. It is therapeutic to get beyond yourself.

The ZCO/Dance Project - Dancing Beyond Disability

by Zazel-Chavah O’Garra

ZCO/Dance Project is a dance company that consists of six women and two men, all with disabilities. ZCO showcases the talent of its dancers, demonstrating “Dancing beyond Disability” with grace, charm, perseverance, soul and power!

As Artistic Director of ZCO, I would like to announce the performance of “Journey” on October 9th. “Journey” is a show that I produced, conceived and directed and will take place at the Dixon Place Theatre in New York City. "Journey" fervently explores the triumphs and challenges that we have as disabled dancers.

After becoming a disabled dancer 12 years ago, I knew I wanted to expand my creativity, so I invited other disabled artists to join me in this performance to celebrate their. From my experience and in talking to my company members, I've noticed we aren't always treated as professionals because of our disabilities. I don’t believe that these circumstances should overshadow our talents and steal our humanity.

My project is valuable to everyone because, at its core, it is about the humanity and expressing the spirit our circumstances.  We, as artists, want people to realize that everybody can dance despite their physical challenges. Our goal is to do away with the misconceptions that people have of persons with disabilities. 

Raw Beauty is All Around – A Raw Beauty NYC Model’s Reflection

By Emily Ladau

As a visibly disabled woman, I’m often made to feel during public outings that I am on display. Using a wheelchair makes me noticeable, turning me into a sight that – despite it being the 21st century – still causes far too many people to stare as though I’m an otherworldly museum piece. My body is not my own in the eyes of society, but rather an exhibit open to insensitive jokes about my disability and unsolicited comments about my appearance. I’ve spent my life shielding my self-confidence from the barrage of remarks, and yet there are times when even my thick skin begins to feel worn.

Raw Beauty Project NYC is a project that set out to change all this, and I have the honor of being part of it. I first discovered a call for prospective models on Twitter, inviting women with disabilities who are advocates and leaders to apply for the opportunity to be photographed for an exhibit showcasing their “raw beauty.” I was intrigued, but something caused me to hesitate: was I willing to go outside my comfort zone and purposely put myself on display when I’d already felt exposed for so long? How lucky I am that I took a risk and applied, because being chosen to model proved to be an experience I’ll carry with me always.