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Rolling on the Web


Wendy Crawford started mobileWOMEN.org ten years ago with a $50,000 grant from the California Endowment.
Reprinted from PN December 2012

This website offers specific information, help, advice and hope for women in wheelchairs.

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Wendy Crawford was a young model with her first international contract. It was 1984, and she was on the cusp of adult life as an independent woman. The excited 19-year-old was heading to the airport to fly to her big modeling gig in Japan when a drunk driver changed everything.

“I grew up through womanhood as a quadriplegic,” she says.

This put Crawford in two worlds — a young quadriplegic trying to navigate the world with a wheelchair and a young woman just trying to navigate the world.

Transitions

Career, dating, marriage, pregnancy, parenting … divorce. Those life transitions were as much on her mind as accessibility and cutting-edge medical research. And there were precious few bridges between those two sides of her life.

The now 47-year-old did what many with disabilities do when there are questions — lots of research and talking with friends. For example, what about spinal-cord injury and pregnancy? 

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have children,” she says. “The timing just didn’t work out. I wanted to know if that was possible, and what happens when you go into labor.”

Her first marriage ended. Crawford married again, Peter Boardman.

“I just got remarried a year ago,” Crawford says. “My husband has two children, so I’m a stepmother. His daughter is in a wheelchair, too.”

That’s 26-year-old Michel. So, where does a wheelchair-using woman go to get advice about step-parenting adult children who are also wheelchair users? Each life transition brought new questions, sending Crawford to more research and talking with friends.

“I could find hardly anything,” she offers.

All Disabled Women

Crawford saw a need and filled it with mobileWOMEN.org, an online magazine for women in wheelchairs.

“A lot of my friends were having a hard time finding information, too,” Crawford says. “I thought, why don’t we have a place to share information? Because my best information has always been from talking to other women with spinal-cord injury.”

When that talking is done on a website, it’s called user-generated content.

“That’s what I love about it,” remarks Crawford. “It’s not just my site. It’s all disabled women’s site.”

Crawford started mobileWOMEN.org ten years ago with a $50,000 grant from the California Endowment, a private health foundation created in 1996. The site started under the auspices of the Rutgers Foundation’s W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience’s Spinal Cord Injury Project. 

It turned out other wheelchair-using women were looking for a place to talk and share.

“We had a really great response when we got it set up,” Crawford says.

About 3,000 regular users sort of “great response.” MobileWOMEN.org eventually staked out on its own.

“It was difficult to get things on the website because (people at the Keck Center) were busy and servers went down,” explains Crawford. “And there were restrictions on what we could take in advertising.”

Divvy Up the Work

The website found a new helper, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

But arm surgery almost ended everything. Crawford explains that after arm surgery she could no longer type as much as before, and websites with user-generated content can take a lot of reading, editing, and typing. 

“Cheryl (Price) started helping me do the typing,” Crawford says.

Price is the site’s managing editor. She was paralyzed at birth. For a decade Price was the editor of Entertainment News & Views, which was later renamed ENV Magazine

“I handle promotion, and we divvy up a lot of the work,” Crawford offers.

In addition to Price, regular contributors include Jenny Addis, Tiffiny Carlson, Amy Saffell, Kelly Rouba, Bethany Hoppe, and PN’s Just for Women columnist, Camile S. Araujo.

What Now?

In 2006, Araujo was a tough South Florida cop accustomed to taking over rooms. She still does even after an on-duty vehicular accident left her a T4 paraplegic rediscovering life. Only now, Araujo says, she takes over rooms with inspiration rather than a badge.

“I had just turned 30 and was attuned to my femininity,” she says. “Then all of a sudden I woke from a coma and that was all gone.”

Araujo, now 36, had lost her voice for about four months. She turned to pantomiming to get her needs met, and journaling for self-discovery.

“I had to stop talking and reflect on what was going on inside,” she offers. “That four months was when I shut everything out and went inside.”

She extended that journaling to publishing. Araujo started a blog, and got a story published in an Australian magazine. She’s also working on a novel. Araujo says much of her work at mobileWOMEN.org is aimed at women who, like her, recently made the transition to life with a wheelchair.

“My audience is mainly newbies,” Araujo explains. “People who are, ‘What now?’ ”

Plenty Of Content

MobileWOMEN.org includes sections on health and wellness, sexuality and relationships, reproductive health and parenting, beauty and fashion, business and employment, and others.

It also has a community page for folks to share their thoughts, favorite photos, and other things. There are also mobileWOMEN.org Facebook and Twitter groups. 

Crawford says it amazes her how many life transitions there are to send her to research and talking with friends, so she’s not worried that mobileWOMEN.org will run out of things to talk about.

“I never thought I’d end up in a wheelchair, and I never thought that I’d be old, either,” she remarks. “But it’s happening.”

For more information, visit mobilewomen.org.  

 

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