​Disabled Women Make History: Shameka Andrews

Posted by Stephanie Woodward in Daily Dose on January 25, 2023 # Disabled Women Make History

Shameka, a Black woman wearing glasses, a purple head wrap, and a purple sweater, smiling at the camera.“I am passionate about what I do because I believe that people with disabilities should have access to every area of life,” said Shameka Andrews, a disability rights advocate and consultant from Albany, NY.

Shameka works as the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Self Advocacy Association of New York State, where she supports the board of directors, creates messaging for the organization, and presents at various conferences about disability advocacy. When she’s not working with the Self Advocacy Association, she’s working as a disability consultant, where she provides training in the areas of self-advocacy, self-care, and disability awareness. Shameka knows that her roles as an advocate and a consultant not only provide value because of the work she does but also because of the example she sets. “The work I do allows people to see that people with disabilities can hold a variety of positions in the workplace and think differently about who they are hiring,” she explained.

Shameka’s work allows her to follow her passion for protecting and advancing the rights of people with disabilities. “Disability rights matter because people with disabilities matter! What we have to say matters, what we think matters, and what we feel matters. I don’t think that people always get that, and it makes me sad and frustrated, but that is why I continue to do what I do.”

While Shameka has been a disability rights advocate for more than 20 years, she did not have mentors with disabilities to help her until she was in college. “I joined Ms. Wheelchair America in college, and it has had a great impact on me. When I first joined, I felt like a fish out of water because I was a college student at the time, and so many of the other women had long careers in the Disability Rights Movement, worked in government, and had their own businesses,” Shameka shared, “but attending this national event for the first time was one of my greatest experiences ever! There were 100 women in wheelchairs. I had never been in a room like that at that point in my life. It was so much fun!”

Shameka’s participation in Ms. Wheelchair America was transformative for her in many ways. Not only was it the first time she was surrounded by other women with disabilities that she could relate to, but it was also the launching point for her long tenure as a volunteer with Ms. Wheelchair New York and, eventually, becoming the state coordinator for the Ms. Wheelchair New York program. Shameka’s altruism does not end with her work in the Ms. Wheelchair New York program, though - she volunteers with many organizations, including the Spina Bifida Association of New York and the New York Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

When Shameka is not working or volunteering, she loves spending time with her four nieces and three nephews, letting loose with her zoom dance group, and watching professional wrestling. “That often shocks people,” Shameka confessed, “but I have been a pro wrestling fan since I was a child.”

While her love for professional wrestling may not fit the mold of what people expect, Shameka does not lose sleep over what other people think or expect of her. Shameka proudly rolls to her own beat, and she advises other disabled girls and women to do the same. “My advice for girls and women with disabilities who want to become leaders is to find your own voice. Everyone will have an opinion about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Figure out what works for you and create your own definition of success.”

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women with disabilities. Stephanie is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to bringing more women and girls with disabilities to the forefront through mentoring and activism.

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