Balancing Disability Advocacy & a Professional Career

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on October 06, 2021 # Lifestyle

Ali wearing a black and white shirt. She is outside next to a hydrangea plant. She has blonde hair. Ali uses a wheelchair.By guest blogger Ali Ingersoll

When you believe in something larger than yourself, it’s quite extraordinary what you are able to accomplish. After becoming a complete C6 quadriplegic in 2010, it took me quite a few years and multiple long stents in the hospital to come to the realization that I simply had to find a coping mechanism for living an entirely new life in a very different body.

In short order, I started back to work as a marketing analyst and day trader. I focused much of my time on rehabilitation and working. I am a realist by nature, so I was under no illusion of what living a life with severe paralysis would entail. Still, I also spent many years feeling completely unfulfilled with my daily accomplishments. From an outside perspective, I was inspirational, full of life, working full time, paying my bills, and traveling around the world - but mental paralysis eventually started to take over my life. I had finally started to get to grips with the physical aspects of my paralysis, but a deep sense of depression and emptiness had taken hold within me.

It wasn’t until 2015 that my disability advocacy career started to blossom. The simple act of being constantly denied medically necessary equipment from my health insurance company fueled something extremely unexpected within me - deep, unrelenting frustration. I was and continue to be flabbergasted at our medical system, but this only ignited my drive to fight for myself and for those living with significant disabilities who were unable to fight for themselves. My journey of disability advocacy through dark humor and sheer determination started to blossom.

Fast forward to 2021, and I still maintain a full-time professional career, work with multiple national nonprofits around the country fighting for disability rights in many arenas, write for national magazines, consult for nonprofits around the country, sit on multiple nonprofit boards, and give back to the community with every ounce of energy I have in a day. To take my life a step further, I have now decided to embark on an entirely new professional career in the corporate world of Diversity & Inclusion in order to make a greater impact on a global scale.

Paying it forward, I believe, has become my positive coping mechanism for living a life with paralysis. It brings me pure joy when I receive a message when someone thanks me for helping them with the problem, participating in global podcasts, writing an article, to name a few, and above all, helping to change someone’s life for the better even in the smallest of ways.

Ali smiling wearing a blue and white shirt. She has blonde hair. I am often asked how I am able to maintain such a full-time life with my level of paralysis - to which I reply, “Through a delicate and strategic balance of methodical planning.” My life today is akin to a military operation. I wake up at the crack of dawn; engage in multiple hours of caregiving duties; exercise; proceed over to my computer command center to get to work for the entire day; get out to the community for meetings when necessary; then get back into my bed for several more hours of caregiving followed by finishing up the night working from a small laptop from my pressure-relieving mattress (won through an insurance battle I fought incredibly hard for) due to a severe pressure sore affliction I suffer from as so many others with paralysis do as well.

It’s exhausting, requires meticulous planning every hour of every day, and my life demands hyper-focus, not just in my advocacy or professional duties, but for my body as well. Unfortunately, I have suffered from a tremendous amount of medical complications, and if I do not stay on top of every aspect of my care, including the delicate balance of creating a team in my home to take care of me, I would be unable to spend all of my time helping others.

It’s worth it because I believe in something bigger than myself; just as people have faith in religion, I have faith in paying it forward and human kindness. If you find what you believe in, life has an interesting way of working itself out, but only if you are intentional in creating a plan to achieve your goals. You will fail, but it’s what you do with that failure that will define you. This is certainly easier said than done and demands daily practice on this lifelong journey of mine.

I live by one of Winston Churchill’s famous quotes “The definition of success is moving from failure to failure without lack of enthusiasm.” Even in my darkest of hours, my enthusiasm for what I do remains intact.

Ali Ingersoll is a day trader, consultant, disability advocate, writer, blogger, editor, and public speaker. She started her advocacy mission after being repeatedly denied medically necessary equipment by insurance companies over the last 10 years. Ali's passion lies in coaching people with disabilities on how to improve their quality of life by teaching them how to self-advocate in order to live a life of independence, dignity, and grace.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.