Andrea DalzellAndrea Dalzell, Ms. Wheelchair New York 2015 and a United Spinal member, will be speaking directly with legislators on issues that affect the independence and quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D).

Dalzell, 29, will be attending Roll on Capitol Hill to urge her state representatives to provide people living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D) in New York greater access to complex rehab technology and wheelchairs.

“Complex rehab technology is extremely important to me. Twenty-five years in a wheelchair means that I have wear and tear on my shoulders and my body,” said Dalzell, who was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis at the age of 5, a neurological condition that causes inflammation of the spinal cord.

“People like me need customized wheelchair design to prevent injury, prevent wounds, and to keep us living independently,” she added.

Beyond the need for appropriate equipment, Dalzell’s other concern involves the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“The reason why I am alive today is because of the ACA. In 2010 I had a stage 4 wound that would not heal. I was on basic Medicaid seeing regular doctors instead of specialists,” said Dalzell.

Dalzell’s mom was able to add her to her ACA healthcare plan.

“Even with a pre-existing condition I was not denied. It was only then I was able to see the specialist who performed my surgery and healed me,” added Dalzell.

Roll on Capitol Hill, now entering its 6th year, has become a valuable platform for United Spinal member advocates like Andrea Dalzell and representatives from the organization’s national chapter network, to speak directly with their congressional representatives about these issues.

Dalzell, who has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Neuroscience from the College of Staten Island and is currently in Nursing School, is excited to be returning to Roll on Capitol Hill this year to represent many individuals within the disability community who struggle to maintain their independence.

Dalzell said that the event has given her the opportunity to find women mentors from across the country who have enabled her as a wheelchair user to gain new confidence.

The Roll has also given her the skills to go to any state and sit with an official, not only to share her perspectives, but build a solution through positive dialogue. Part of that process is to make sure they understand the core issues impacting wheelchair users.

“It is well known that the disability unemployment rate is almost triple that of the non-disabled population, and I believe that has a lot to do with the ability to access the equipment needed to even get to college and pursue a higher education and professional career,” said Dalzell.

“There’s a great need to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities across society. In 2017, from education to the workplace to health care, we still haven’t figured out how to be inclusive and provide access to basic needs for all our citizens,” she added.