It’s estimated that 15% of the world population and one in five people living in the USA have a disability. That’s a large selection, yet people with disabilities are widely missing from the media representation and political discussions. That is why organizations like Ms Wheelchair New York(also Ms Wheelchair America) are so important. They offer an opportunity to bring issues front and center. By increasing public awareness of the needs of individuals with disabilities. Ms Wheelchair NY is run completely by volunteers. All money raised from sponsorship, donations and fundraisers goes to keeping the program running.
Shameka Andrews is the New York state coordinator and 2006 pageant winner. She does not let her disability stop her from being a positive change in her community. Instead she uses her experiences to ensure that others with disabilities can have full and active lives. I hope her interview will help you to realize that you can cope with the obstacles in your life and also give back to your community.
What inspired you to support people with disabilities? As a person with a disability myself I thought it was important to support others that might be going through some of the same things I went through and to be a resource to them. Volunteering and giving back to my community has always been important to me.
My disability is Spina bifida and what motivates me is being able to help others because that is what I believe we are all here to do, help one another. We all have obstacles in our lives, it’s important for people to know that they are not alone, they can get through whatever it is they are going through even though it may not seem that way right now and they too can make a difference in someone’s life.
What steps did you take to start this particular journey? I became aware of the Ms Wheelchair NY Program in 2004. When the Ms Wheelchair America competition was hosted at the Albany Marriott. Ms Wheelchair NY is a advocacy and empowerment public speaking competition for women who use wheelchairs. I volunteered in the hospitality suite for that event and I have been involved with the program ever since. In 2006 I won the title of Ms Wheelchair NY and two years ago I became the state coordinator.
What was or are the hardest obstacle(s) to overcome to meet your goals?/What is your proudest accomplishment so far in relation to your work? Accessibility continues to be a big obstacle. Even though there have been many improvements made there is still lots of work to be done. I believe my greatest accomplishment in this area has been working with the city to have curb cuts installed in my neighborhood. A curb cut is a cut in the curb that allows you to go from the sidewalk to the street. Having curb cuts in the neighborhood has allowed myself and other people with disabilities to take travel throughout the neighborhood just like everyone else.
How can people get involved either through your work or in their own communities? The Ms. Wheelchair NY organization is always looking for contestants, judges, sponsors and volunteers to help the day of the competition. If you are not from New York you can check the www.MsWheelchairAmerica.org to find the program in your state.
Get involved at www.MsWheelchairNewYork.weebly.com
Shameka Andrews, Disability Empowered Consulting
Are you a volunteerVolunteer Story Page
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