Meeting Ali Stroker was surreal. Not just simply because she is an immensely talented performer whom I’ve looked up to for most of my young adult life. Not just because she is even more stunning in person, if that is even possible. And not just because she is paving the way for actors and actresses with disabilities to shine. But because she exudes an effortless confidence that transcends her chair. In fact, instead of seeing what the world too often considers to be her limitation as a boundary, Ali sees opportunity.
Ali does not feel chained down by her chair. Instead she sees it as something that has opened doors for her that she would have never explored as an able bodied actress. Ali’s chair makes her unique. Ironically, it makes her metaphorically stand out from other actresses. There may be a million beautiful, blonde women competing for a role, but there is only one Ali. However, incredibly, Ali also wants to change that.
Disability has repeatedly been hidden from the lights of Hollywood. Ali admits that many people in the industry have never even worked with someone with a disability. However, it is fundamental that people with disabilities are represented.
Ali is an integral part of creating a world where actors with disabilities are on screens and on stages everyday. Where disabilities do not define a performer but instead make them more dynamic. Seeing Ali on stage and on screen helps me to connect to my disability and celebrate my experiences as a person in a wheelchair. Ali oozes a confidence that makes me, as a viewer and a woman in a wheelchair, feel beautiful and worthy.
When Ali was two years old she was injured in a car accident that caused a C7 T2 incomplete injury to her spinal cord. But while talking with Ali it becomes immediately apparent that her injury is no hindrance to her career. Instead, Ali feels that her awareness of what she can do and what her body can do are heightened. As women in wheelchairs we constantly have to be creative thinkers. Figuring out how to navigate inaccessible situations. Finding ways to not let anything stop us from living life to the fullest.
When Ali became the first actress in a wheelchair to attend the acclaimed New York University Drama Department, she was told she would not be able to participate in the dance portion of the program. Ali would not have that. She insisted on trying and proved that no one’s ideas of what being in a wheelchair means would stop her from fully and completely performing in every way she could.
In 2012, Ali was a part of the Glee Project and earned a guest role on Glee. Most recently, Ali has made history as the first ever actress in a wheelchair to perform on Broadway in Deaf West’s 2015 revival of Spring Awakening.
Ali epitomizes what it means to be boundless. “Live your life to your full potential!” she declares, “Don’t wonder what if. Follow your impulse.”
Ali and Chelsie in 2012