gigi and her husband on a bench with life on wheels

gigi, kenny and baby

Today, the wheelchair has become an extension of myself. After 11 years, I continue to face discrimination. At times it’s hard to “let it roll off my back.”

For me, everyday tasks you may take for granted, like going into a grocery store or gas station is extremely difficult. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been around since July 26, 1990. Yet, many stores, businesses, shops, and gas stations are not accessible for wheelchairs users and handicapped citizens.  It is embarrassing when I can not fit in the doorway of a store or a business. It’s worse when I can get through the door, but I cannot maneuver within the isles of the store or even fit into their handicapped restrooms because of my wheelchair. Yes, we have made great strides to achieve equality. However, there is still so much more work we have to accomplish for every community to be accessible.

Five years ago, I was able to use the Ticket to Work Program. The program is for people between 18 and 64 who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because they have a disability. Thankfully, the Social Security Administration recognizes that, with the right services and supports, many people with disabilities will eventually be able to and want to work. Working provides a sense of financial independence, social interaction, and a sense of productivity.

Thanks to Ticket to Work, I eventually landed a job at Wal-Mart. Having a job again gave me the feeling that I was once again part of society. Working made my spirits grow higher. It was during my time at Walmart, where I met one extraordinary customer, my husband, Kenny!

Most people see my chair first, then see me. Kenny was different. He saw me, the real me. It felt amazing to be treated as a whole person. I’ve always known that I  am far more than my wheelchair, but having another person acknowledge it was life-changing.  He’s given me the courage to inspire change and work to make public spaces accessible to everyone.

Fast-forward to the present. My past feelings of being a victim have diminished. Today I feel excited to make my own life story. The love I’ve received from Kenny (and so many others) has given me the courage to pursue dreams.  Now I have the family I’ve always dreamed of, a healthy son plus a new baby on the way!  Best of all, I see myself as a healthy, beautiful, loving, kind, WHOLE woman.

What I take from my accident is this, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” There are resources available to guide you to the right people and companies who are willing to assist.

I enjoyed giving a brief look into my life. I hope you stay tuned for more updates.

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