Celebrating Disability Pride Month!

July 19, 2022
Americans with Disabilities Act
Celebrating Disability Pride Month!

July is Disability Pride Month—a month commemorating the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and recognizes that disabilities are a part of human diversity. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about improving access and inclusion. 


CON Associate Professor Dr. Susan Newman has dedicated her research to improving experiences for those with spinal cord injuries through peer mentoring. In 2012, she began working with Marka Rodgers, who as a person with incomplete quadriplegia has leveraged her own experiences with disability to advocate for a more inclusive experience in Charleston and beyond.  


Dr. Susan Newman: “I met Marka less than one year after her second(!) spinal cord injury (SCI). Since that time, I have been impressed consistently by her drive and determination to retain her prior level of independence, health and active lifestyle in the context of her disability. She is active in work (teaching ballet and physical fitness) and participates in social activities in the community frequently. Marka is one of the hardest working, untiring people I have ever met. I’ve watched her deal with the consequences of her paralysis, and thrive in her recovery from breast cancer, by applying the discipline, responsibility and personal accountability that were required for her to become a professional ballet dancer. She also has professional experience as a first responder! All of these characteristics combine to make her an excellent peer mentor. She is an essential member of my research team and a personal friend!”


Marka Rodgers: “The most valuable thing I discovered from peer mentoring was the ability to speak freely about the injury and the very personal challenges that come along with it. Being able to speak about bowel and bladder programs was a big deal. Let’s face it, many people don’t want to hear about that kind of thing. The ability to learn to laugh or cry with people who ‘get it’ made a big difference for me. There are so many things to deal with after spinal cord injury and so many different ways to trouble shoot, adapt, modify, etc., that having like-bodied people to brainstorm with really helps. The biggest positives to being a Peer Mentor are knowing that I am helping someone live a better life than they originally thought they could. Seeing a smile on someone’s face when they’ve accomplished something they didn’t expect, a physical task such as transferring from a chair to a bed or similar, to getting a job they never thought they would be hired for, help me feel that I have a purpose. It also gives me more meaning to the “why” my accident happened. That’s not an easy pill to swallow but peer mentoring helps.” 


Read more about Rodgers’ impactful work


The PHOENIX SCI Peer Navigator Study


Learn about Disability Pride Month