How long have you had to use a wheelchair?
Since 1995. 24 years.
What are your biggest challenges you must face as a wheelchair user?
One of the biggest challenges is that there are still places that are un-accessible to me – like restaurants, stores, acting classes and casting director offices. The other big challenge is that there is still a large number of people that don’t value disabled lives, we are discriminated against in the search for jobs, for equal pay, access to health care… As an actor, producer, and writer I tackle these challenges through story-telling, awareness and education.
How has being in a wheelchair changed the way you deal with your daily life?
The biggest change is that I have to plan more. For example, if I am planning a trip, I have to make sure the hotel and my room is wheelchair accessible, I have to make sure my rental car has hand controls…Same goes for my daily life. Before going anywhere, I check accessibility – restaurants, theaters, museums. When it comes to sports, I look for adaptive sports or teams as they will have the equipment as well as knowledge needed to work with disabled athletes.
Who helped you the most to become who you are today?
My mom. She always supported, encouraged, and believed in me.
Were there any books, podcasts, events, or people that helped you along your journey?
When I was in rehab at Shepherd Center, a girl came to visit me. She had been paralyzed two years prior and was now a senior in high school, drove a convertible, had a boyfriend, was a cheerleader and had plans to go to college. Meeting her, was huge for me. It showed me what was possible and that I could have a wonderful life in a wheelchair.
What do you do for a job or career?
I started acting after I took a theater class in college. It was through performance (acting in plays in college and dancing with Full Radius Dance) that I began to embrace my disability. There is such power in story-telling, the way it can connect us and humanize different experiences.
When I started acting, I didn’t see anyone like me on TV or in the movies, which made me feel invisible, that my point of view wasn’t of value. As an actor, writer, and advocate is has been so rewarding to help change that. My web series My Gimpy Life is now used in college curriculums all over the world – in disability studies classes as well as New Media classes.
I am also a freelance writer and Media Columnist for New Mobility Magazine.
Please tell us how you got to where you’re at today.
When I was fourteen years old, I was in a car accident and broke my back. I have a spinal cord injury and use a wheelchair. Becoming disabled changed the course of my life. And though certain things can be challenging, I love where it has taken me and the opportunities and experiences I’ve had because of it.
I have danced professionally with a physically integrated (including disabled and non-disabled dancers) company called Full Radius Dance.
I’ve acted in movies, commercials, TV Shows, and plays. I even created the web series, My Gimpy Life,which is loosely based on experiences I had living in Hollywood. I’ve sky-dived, surfed, and currently row with an adaptive rowing team in Seattle called Seize the Oar.
I’ve also been married for over five years and have a four-year- old son named, River.
You can learn more about Teal Sherer at her website: Tealsherer.com and on YouTube.