Wheel Women

Reprinted from PN May 2017

Women with SCI/D share what it's like finding love or a job, raising a family and staying healthy.

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Women’s issues have caught national headlines recently with marches, rallies and protests across the country, but women with a spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D) face a whole host of other issues that their able-bodied counterparts will never experience. 

From trying to obtain quality health care and a career to being a mother, wife or girlfriend on top of managing the physical and emotional toll of an injury or disease comes with many challenges.

The most recent study conducted in 2016 by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham estimates that males account for 80% of new SCI cases, which means much of the research and advancements in the field involve men. 

While more women’s voices are beginning to be heard, there’s more work ahead for women to get the support they need. But plenty of women are ready to join the fight.

Anne Robinson, above and seated right in inset, enjoys hunting and playing boccia.

Confidence In Relationships

Sometimes, being a woman who uses a wheelchair is a journey best understood by other women who are in a similar situation.

That’s why Tamara Michelle Moss is starting a women’s SCI support group in Tucson, Ariz. (for information, visit

Moss, 38, sustained an L2 incomplete SCI at 10 months old. Her parents were in an argument and her father, a product of abuse himself, became enraged and beat Moss with a hammer. While she doesn’t remember being injured, Moss remembers when she was taken from her mother and placed in a foster home. She says it was difficult to grow up without a female role model, but she didn’t let her rough childhood deter her ambition. 

After 14 years of teaching special education, Moss decided to retire and become a motivational speaker. She also plays on the California PossAbilities Shield Maidens wheelchair basketball team. 

She says two of the biggest issues women struggle with are society’s perceptions of people with disabilities and a lack of confidence, which she hopes to address at her meetings and through her speaking engagements.

When it comes to relationships, Moss says women who use wheelchairs shouldn’t feel like they have to date another person who uses a wheelchair.

“There’s a comfortability with being with someone who’s like you and an uncomfortability with being with someone who’s not like you, and maybe I’m not good enough to have a person who can walk … You can cultivate a lifestyle that’s conducive to you without feeling like no one’s going to like me, no one’s going to love me because I’m in a wheelchair and I’m different now … Be comfortable within yourself.”

Moss says some women may try to hide their bowel and bladder programs from potential partners. 

“I don’t care if a guy knows I [catheter] myself, but a lot of girls feel insecure or ashamed … and those feelings tend to lead to depression,” she says. “Every now and then my bladder might explode. Oh well, life goes on, get over it. I’m not ashamed of those things.”

Moss says her support group meetings won’t focus so much on the injury itself but on what women can do to make themselves feel good again and become inspired.

“I’m big on careers and big on the right career for spinal-cord injury,” Moss says. “I truly believe how you carry yourself, and I’m very big on hygiene, anybody will accept you. What comes out of your mouth is important, your beliefs are important, your confidence is important. Your personality and your aura are more important than your wheelchair.”

In addition, Moss hopes women in her support group will feel empowered to join her in talking to lawmakers about what’s happening in the community and what needs to be done for women with disabilities, including employment opportunities and the cost and accessibility of health care.


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