World Record Rower Revisits the Atlantic

by Rachel Smith
Angela Madsen
There are only nine women in the world who have rowed two oceans, and Angela Madsen is one of them. There is only one woman who has rowed two oceans and completed a rowing circumnavigation of Great Britain; there is only one Angela Madsen, a paraplegic woman who rows across oceans.

On January 8, 2011, Angela will be among 16 highly motivated crew members attempting to break the 33 day world rowing record. They will depart from Agadir, Morocco and row to Port St. Charles, Barbados in the West Indies. For more information on the expedition, visit

Angela is thrilled to be a part of this historic experience, but then she does love a good challenge. Her perspective has always been one of optimism and strength. She says, “Disability is not a death sentence. It does not reduce or diminish someone’s capacity for anything that life has to offer, it only makes other people think that it does.”

Angela sustained a spinal cord injury in 1993. She had surgery on a back injury, which she’d picked up while serving in the military. By all accounts, it seems that during the surgery, if it could go wrong it did, and what should have been a fairly straightforward 4-hour procedure turned into a 10.5-hour disaster. But sadly it didn’t end there and the lengthy time spent in hospital after the botched operation resulted in Angela losing everything and being forced to start over from scratch. 

It took some time, but with the support of family and friends, Angela adjusted to her new life. Being introduced to wheelchair athletics aided Angela’s transition and helped to show Angela what life still offered her.

Featured mobileWOMAN - Alexandra McArthur - Ms. Wheelchair America 2011!

Alexandra McArthur - Ms. Wheelchair America 2011
A native of North Carolina, Alexandra McArthur was born in 1987. Her 23 years of life have offered her challenges and triumphs. As a child growing up in rural NC, Alexandra used her imagination to entertain herself and her family. She spent her days running around the farm creating make-believe games.

Alexandra and her sister, Park
In second grade, her sister, Park, was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Soon after, Alexandra was also diagnosed. As her family struggled with the news, Alexandra only felt excitement. At the age of seven, she relished the idea that it made her more like her older sister. Her disease and resulting disability has shaped Alexandra’s life in many ways, but she believes it has made her more mature, adaptable, adept at engaging with others, and appreciative of every day. Dealing with her disability and how others have responded to it has put Alexandra in a position to relate to others and problems in a unique way. Alex has been forced to embrace physical awkwardness, take pleasure in breaking stereotypes, and make the most of every moment.

Anti-Bullying Speaker Gabe Ford Shares her Strength

by Cheryl Price
Gabrielle Ford's memoir
“To the world you may be my dog, but to me you are the world.” Gabrielle “Gabe” Ford expresses this heartfelt sentiment about Izzy, her beloved Black and Tan Coonhound who passed away in May 2009. While many dog owners and pups indeed form a tight bond, the connection between Gabe and Izzy certainly went deeper. At a time when a medical diagnosis and bullying left her in a deep depression, Gabe was introduced to Izzy and soon gained the inner strength to embrace her own life. Now at 30 years old, Gabe is a confident woman, an author and national anti-bullying speaker. When asked what got her to this point in life, Gabe immediately answered, “Izzy.”

Gabe grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan and experienced a fulfilling, carefree childhood. She loved to dance and participate in sports. Then suddenly, when she was 12, Gabe began to walk off-balance and her speech started to slur. Gabe recalls, “I was a little more clumsy than what I was before, but I still thought I was a normal 12 year old.” Her family became concerned, and soon Gabe was taken out of school and brought to doctors and hospitals for multiple tests. After misdiagnoses, it was finally confirmed that Gabe was suffering from Friedrich’s ataxia, a rare disease that causes nervous system damage, movement problems and leads to impaired muscle coordination. Says Gabe, “My world had been turned upside down. I didn’t want anything to be wrong.”

Hey Jen!

Jennifer Addis, mobileWOMEN's new "Hey Jen!" columnist

I’d like to start off my first entry and participation with by introducing myself. My name is Jennifer Addis, but due to the personal connection we will share from this point on, I invite you to call me Jen. I am a single, 37-year-old woman, living life with big dreams and aspirations. Out of all the jobs I have, I enjoy my career as an Auntie to my six nieces and nephews more than anything in this world. 

On March 16, 1997, I was a passenger in a tragic drunk driving accident. The careless and irresponsible designated driver happened to be my boyfriend and fiance at the time. At the age of 24, my once “normal” life became a life of loss and dependency. I was stripped away of my livelihood, career, dignity, pride and most importantly, my independence! I struggled day in and day out with the loss of everyday capabilities we all take for granted, such as walking, writing my own name, doing my hair and make-up, brushing my teeth, having the function to go to the bathroom on my own and wondering if I could ever be that same auntie as I had been for years. 

Featured mobileWOMAN - Sabrina Cohen

Sabrina Cohen
Born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida, Sabrina suffered a severe C3 - 5 spinal cord injury at the age of 14 in a 1992 car accident. Despite the daily challenges, she found comfort in motivational speaking and graduated high school on time.

In 1999, Sabrina graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Communications, double majoring in Advertising and Psychology. She holds a post-graduate degree in Copywriting from the Miami Ad School, and founded her own advertising company, SabCo Productions.

In May 2004, Sabrina discovered her true passion - the world of stem cell research through Bernard Siegel, founder of the Genetics Policy Institute, and soon after became the Director of Public Relations for GPI.

Don’t Underestimate this Poker Face

by Wendy Crawford
Jillian Orrick
When one thinks of a experienced poker player, one doesn’t think of a young 27-year-old woman using a power wheelchair. It’s precisely that preconceived notion that Jillian Orrick banks on when she pulls up to the poker table.

Jillian sustained a C2 spinal cord injury from a car accident when she 19 months old, leaving her a quadriplegic.  Growing up in Middletown, NJ, she started playing poker when she was only in the single digits. Jillian’s nurse taught her how to play blackjack and “5 card” poker to get her mind off of how sick she was during the day. When she went away to college, her physical therapist taught her how to play “Texas Hold’em.”  During the rest of her college years, Jillian played for fun at least once a month at different people’s houses, all the while learning many poker skills. Jillian graduated from the University of Miami with a BBA, majoring in marketing and management, with an undying passion for poker!

Jillian Orrick interviews Jillian:

MW:  For those unfamiliar with the C2 level of the spine, could you please explain your injury level? What can you do independently? What do you need help with?
JO: A C2 level means that I have no feeling from the neck down. I can feel pressure/pain in my stomach and my back. I can move my head and have full brain function. Everything else in my daily life I need assistance with, from my 24-hour RN’s, family, and friends. The rare aspect of my injury is that I can breathe on my own without the assistance of a respirator.  It’s very difficult to sleep without a respirator, though, so I am on a Bi-pap machine, which gives me minimal help.

Heels with Wheels: Perfect Combination of Fashion and Function

by Cheryl Price
Angela Irick wearing "Summer Sky" top. Photo: Paper Moon Photography/Charlie Gill

When Angela Irick was a young girl living in Houston, Texas, she never paid much attention to shopping. Whether she wanted to buy a new pair of jeans, a dress for a dance or the latest trend that everyone in school was talking about, Angela’s friends were the ones to pick out what worked best for her. As she admits, “Fashion was not my number one priority." 

Then at the age of 14, Angela’s life took a dramatic shift. She was involved in what was considered a “fender bender,” until Angela was discovered gasping for air in the back seat of the car. She was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston and, shortly thereafter, was diagnosed as a C1-C2, vent-dependent quadriplegic. Initially, Angela was told that she would never eat, speak, or hold her head up on her own, but she proved them wrong. Now 28 years old, after regaining movement and sensation below her level of injury, Angela is considered an incomplete injury. 

Coming out of rehab and trying to assimilate back into one’s ‘prior’ life is never easy, and Angela had to do so as a teenager, a time that’s challenging without a new disability. While her friends were talking about boys and which pair of jeans to wear to school tomorrow, Angela was trying to come to terms with how to live her life and keep up with her friends. Little by little, Angela learned how to handle her daily-living challenges. Life went on for Angela, albeit on a different path than she expected. 

Featured mobileWOMAN -- Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is a powerful, internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, writer, and publisher who walks her talk. On June 13, 1998 Rossetti’s life was transformed when a 3 1/2 ton tree came crushing down on her. Her life was changed in that instant! Paralyzed from the waist down with a spinal cord injury, Rossetti looked deep within herself and found new strength and new resolve. In her keynote speeches, she shares the lessons she has learned since that fateful day, and demonstrates how to rise above misfortune and live life with conviction.

Rossetti’s program “Just Like Riding A Bike: Coping with Change and Dealing with Adversity” is a transformational experience. Rossetti uses the lessons that she learned during her recovery to empower participants. She focuses on what motivates people to change their behavior, awaken their inner gifts, find meaning in their lives, and accomplish more to bring out the best in themselves. As a result of this program, participants will be revitalized and recharged. They will leave with restored hope, happiness and an improved vision of their future. Rossetti helps people achieve goals and take charge of their lives. She brings a positive attitude to life that touches all who hear her, with an emotive speaking style that makes audiences fall in love with her and rally to her message.

Using the lessons that she learned while rebuilding her business, she developed “Can Your Business Survive a Crisis? Practical Tips for Limiting Losses and Bouncing Back”. This program shows business owners how to limit risks and avoid losses, ensuring the continuity and vitality of a business during and after a crisis.

Tips for the Traveling mobileWOMAN

by Melissa Male and Cheryl Price

If you are a mobileWOMAN, then you have an inner desire to explore the world around you. This thirst for adventure most often requires air travel. With new airline regulations as well as the need to bring along personal supplies, medical equipment, and your ever-important wheelchair, traveling may seem like an overwhelming endeavor. Relax! We are here to provide you with some tips to help your trip run smoothly so that you have even more time for adventure!


When booking your flight, you should immediately make the airline aware of your disability and your needs. Many times, you can reserve a seat close to the front of the plane, or even in the first row-- bulkhead--which is easiest for both you and the staff who may help you on-board.

If you want, you can get assistance immediately when you arrive at the airport. They will escort you through security and to your gate. You will also have assistance getting on and off the plane, picking up your luggage and helping to get transportation.

When booking a flight, also pay close attention to the times for layovers and make certain that you have enough time for a bathroom break as well as getting to your next gate. A direct flight is always best if possible, so that you have less chance of missing the next one or losing your luggage.

You may be asked how much your chair weighs without you in it. Figure this out before heading to the airport. They ask in order to find out if they can carry it from the jetway down a flight of stairs to cargo, which saves them time...but, it can be risky. If there isn't an automatic lift to lower the chair from the jetway, say "it's very heavy" or tell them NOT to take it down the stairs. They have other options, which take more time, but will give you more peace of mind.

Fashion Faux Pas for the Wheelchair User and Solutions to Fix Them

By Wendy Crawford

Now we are getting into the fall season - when fashion is at its best! Here are some pointers to keep in mind when cruising the malls:
Photo used with permission from WheelieChix-Chic
1. Clothes that fit badly will look badly. Unfortunately, when you are sitting, this problem can occur more often than not. Choose clothes that fit the largest part of your body, then have the rest taken in. Once you find a tailor that you like, he/she will become accustomed to your needs.

Twinkle, Twinkle: Holiday Fashion and Beauty Tips

by Wendy Crawford
Photo used with permission from
Designer wear for women in wheelchairs
What are the hottest makeup trends for this season?

The two looks that are really hot this season are: The dark, smoky, shimmery eye paired with neutral lips; and deep red lips balanced with a light eye. Shimmer is big, and the holiday season is the time to shine!

My everyday makeup is fairly conservative. How can I add to it when going out to a holiday party without having to take everything off?

The best thing to do is to clean up any messy smudges and then use a light powder or try a tinted moisturizer for a dewy finish. Reapply blush. Next, darken the eyes with shimmery dark shadow to create a smoky eye effect. Only add more mascara if it has worn off, as a second coat sometimes will clump.

Another option is to cover the lid with a light, shimmering eyeshadow and then emphasize the lips with your favorite red lipstick, making certain to line edges with a similar color to keep a clean line. If you have difficulty with hand function and reapplying, there are a lot of long-lasting lip glosses and lipsticks available.

To keep from looking too made-up and overdone, never emphasize lips and eyes at the same time.

Love Your Sex

by Alyson

The questions that people have asked me about sex are startling.  I sometimes wonder if it’s because they’re actually interested in me, or if they’re just straight-up curious.  As a 22-year-old single woman having lived in NYC and now in Los Angeles, I’ve met some pretty straight-forward men.  At this point, I am comfortable enough to just say, “It’s none of your business, thank you very much.” BUT, at times I still feel the need to defend.  I want people to know that women and men with spinal cord injuries can have sex, and that just because there is another “prop”--a wheelchair--sex is not impossible.  In fact, the wheelchair has little to do with sex because usually it isn’t even part of the equation.


by Amy Saffell

No matter how much a person accepts and embraces their disability, most people still strive to fit in with and assimilate to the rest of society as much as possible. Often it’s the ease and confidence with which a person goes through life that determines their ability to do so, regardless of how differently someone may have to do something. As such, whether a disability is congenital or acquired, people often spend lots of time learning either to be as self-sufficient in their daily living as possible or to overcome the stereotypes of disability by trying new, exhilarating, and even seemingly somewhat daring, recreational activities as they gain their independence. This kind of learning often flourishes best with the encouragement of their peers who also have disabilities. Since the early 1990s, Shriners Hospital For Children - Chicago has been helping youth and young adults with spinal cord injuries do just that.

Featured mobileWOMAN -- Chanda Hinton

Chanda Hinton with service dog "Flint"
by Kristin Beale

At age 9, Chanda Hinton's life was dramatically changed. While being babysat by her 14-year old relative, his friend picked up a gun. The gun discharged, hitting Hinton in the back of her neck. The impact of the blow resulted in a spinal cord injury in the C5-C6 vertebrae.

Because her accident happened at such a young age, Hinton feels she had a less difficult transition from the lifestyle of an able-bodied person, to the life of one who is unable to move or feel from her neck down. When Hinton reached the age of 21, her disability not only redefined her lifestyle, it also took a toll on her health. Her weight dropped to 59 pounds, she had chronic pain and a drastically reduced immune system. The combination of these factors led Hinton to undergo a lengthy stays in the hospital and recurring visits to the doctor.

Featured mobileWOMAN -- Alana Yvonne Wallace

Alana Yvonne Wallace is a multi-faceted artist who, along with Michelle Obama, received one of ten Phenomenal Woman Awards at The Black Women's Expo Gala in 2008. Alana currently appears in TV commercials for “Think Beyond the Label”— a national campaign to promote employment for people with disabilities.  She is also featured in the latest edition of “Who's Who in Black Chicago,” as an accomplished community leader.  A graduate of Columbia College with a BFA degree in Theater/Music, Wallace has served as Founder and Artistic Director of Dance>Detour since 1995.  She is a life-long disability advocate, speaker, actor, vocalist and dancer who promotes the inclusion of artists with disabilities in varied creative genres. Her disability advocacy passion focuses on promoting fully accessible housing and universal design.

Sitting Games with Your Preschooler -- Pretend Play

By: Valerie Deneen

Being a parent of a preschooler can be trying for anyone at times. But, for parents who have disabilities, this youthful period can be especially challenging.

No matter what day of the week, children in this age group tend to have an endless supply of energy and often demand a tremendous amount of attention from their parents. Finding activities to do with your preschooler may seem limiting at first, but with a little creativity, you can help channel some of your child's boundless energy into structured playtime—all while sitting down.

In this article, we will explore pretend play scenarios that can be done from a wheelchair. Each one will provide your child with hours of fun. In the end, the goal is also to enhance your child's development with the added benefit of tiring him or her out—leaving you with enough energy to complete the endless tasks a parent faces each day.

Featured mobileWOMAN -- Buddy Hayes

Buddy Hayes, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, lives by the motto Desire to Inspire--and that she does!

A former Ms. Wheelchair Virginia titleholder, Hayes is also a retired Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Special Education teacher, and Army veteran. She earned a degree at Tidewater Community College in recreation leadership and later a Bachelor’s degree in recreation at Virginia Wesleyan College. After graduating, Hayes worked with a wide variety of individuals with disabilities, from adults with brain injuries to toddlers requiring special education. This combination of education and experience ultimately benefited Hayes, herself, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).