Monday, October 6, 2008

Do you ever feel like the only female in a wheelchair?

When I was first injured, it took 6 months for me to connect with another female in a wheelchair to ask her women related issues about spinal cord injury. This happens to a lot to newly injured women, so my friend Anne and I wanted to start a group, and in 2005, an opportunity presented itself. I am on a committee for a group called the SCI Forum, at the University of Washington Medical Center, which holds monthly meetings to provide current information on a variety of topics relevant to the SCI community. I made the suggestion to have a “women’s only” night forum, so Anne and I gathered as many women with SCI we knew, and ask them all to make their best effort to attend. Well, it worked and at the end of the meeting we gathered 12 women’s contact information, and that was the beginning of what we first called the Women’s Wheelchair Washington Network. “Since the majority of wheelchair users have been male, we felt a need for a support network for women, where issues and problems unique to women can be discussed,” said Anne Bostwick, who has SCI and is the Co-Founder of the group.

Over the next 3 years, our group has grown beyond just Washington State. We recently changed the name to the Northwest Women Wheelers Network (NWWWN). “We now have 56 members in all age groups, including single mothers, working women, and retired women. It has been an especially important resource for newly injured women,” said Anne Bostwick. The network has been connecting through a list serve, but we have started building a website.

The NWWWN also holds gatherings like barbeques, recreational events, jewelry parties, holiday parties, and some members started a book club. In mid-September, we held our s annual “end of the summer barbeque”, which VARILITE sponsored. When I told the members that VARILITE was going to sponsor the location, the women were thrilled because no one has ever sponsored any of our events. At the picnic, everyone gathered, met new members, socialized with old friends, and enjoyed the wonderful weather. Sawnie Geer, a member with Multiple Sclerosis, who could not attend the VARILITE sponsored picnic, said that this group has been more than just a network, “The NWWWN means a chance to meet new friends and get some new insight into living with a wheelchair. It also lets us "vent" in a positive way with others that understand what we're going through.”

I am just so happy to have the 56 women with various disabilities to be able to reach out to when I need it. Just knowing that I have a group of amazing women, that come from such diverse backgrounds, to share information with and ask questions about is great. It makes me feel like I am not alone, and I know other members feel the same way. It has been wonderful to help start this group and see how much it has grown in just 3 years. The Northwest Women Wheelers Network has done so much for so many people, and I can’t wait to see it grow! My dream is to see this group keep growing, and maybe it will one day become a national group, but for now I am happy to have a place to not feel like- the only girl in a wheelchair!

Tammy Wilber
CO FOUNDER of the Northwest Women Wheelers Network
~It’s about women on wheels, not just heels~

1 comment:

Amanda said...

it was a great idea Tammy, but you know, we need a catchier American Northwest Disabled Women On Wheels........that would be AND WOW ! for short ; ) LOL
I'll be looking for you on the news tonight!