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  • Angela Lawson

My Journey From Being An Advocacy Princess To Being An Advocacy Queen

Updated: Mar 27

I discovered my passion for advocacy during my high school years. I would help my friends get the necessary accommodations. I worked with the speech therapy department to create communication software and created an afterschool sign language class for the school community so that more people could learn how to communicate with deaf and nonverbal people. Upon graduating I discovered an organization called Ms. Wheelchair New York and I was hand selected to be the first ever Junior Ms. Wheelchair New York.


A young white woman with wavy brown hair with a scrunchie in it smiling at the camera

After I was selected, I traveled to Albany for the Ms. Wheelchair New York crowning where I gave a speech about my goals as Junior Ms. Wheelchair NY to empower people with disabilities and show them that they can do anything they put their mind to. Then I received my crown and sash from the former Ms. Wheelchair New York. It was such an awesome experience and I loved meeting the contestants for Ms. Wheelchair NY.


As a contestant in the program, I had to choose a platform issue to focus on across the year and I selected accessible travel. I wanted to specifically focus on getting wheelchair seats onto planes so that people with disabilities can travel more safely. Across the year, I had the opportunity to speak at all kinds of events where I shared my story, spoke further on accessible travel in various settings, and got more involved in disability advocacy.


The first official event of my reign as Junior Ms. Wheelchair NY was attending the Respectability Summit in Washington, D.C.

During a panel at the Respectability Summit, I got to hear stories from other more experienced advocates and activists about their advocacy journey. One of the panelists was an African advocate whose story stood out to me, because I hadn’t heard about disability experiences from people outside of the United States. Her journey to get the support she needed helped me appreciate the legal protections and support system I have a right to under the ADA and other laws.


I also got to participate in the Salla Treatment and Research Foundation (STAR) Walk which supported a little boy who has Salla Disease which is a rare disease that presents similar to cerebral palsy. I drove my chair around a track in support of Salla Research and then I gave a speech. In my speech, I shared my story, and I did outreach to the families there about how other girls with disabilities can get involved with the program.


There were so many opportunities to do things I have never done before. For example, I participated in a photo shoot which was exciting because as women with a disability we don’t often get the opportunity to be seen in a professional light and be photographed and taken seriously. It helped my confidence to see myself in that way and to provide disability representation to others. It felt incredible to show other people with disabilities that our bodies are beautiful.


As a whole, I am so glad I got to be part of the Ms. Wheelchair New York program, because it gave me opportunities to be empowered and to empower younger girls with disabilities to believe in the possibilities for themselves. As Junior Ms. Wheelchair NY, I gained confidence and self-worth. It helped me improve my public speaking skills as I got to speak about topics like transitioning from school, fashion, medical and health issues, and confidence. I learned that there are so many important issues to advocate for as a person with a disability like access to more services and resources. This experience was just the beginning of my advocacy journey, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.


Angela Lawson has cerebral palsy and loves sharing her advocacy journey. She is a positive and friendly person who loves making a difference in the community and through social media.



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