Incredible Women Doing Incredible Things:
- Ali Stroker
- Mallory Weggemann
- Judith Heumann
Judith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and began to use a wheelchair for her mobility. She was denied the right to attend school because she was considered a "fire hazard" at the age of five. Her parents played a strong role in fighting for her rights as a child, but Judy soon determined that she, working in collaboration with other disabled people, had to play an advocacy role due to continuous discrimination.
She is now an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, of Being Heumann “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” published by Beacon Press and audio recorded by Ali Stroker, who is the first wheelchair actor to perform on Broadway. Judy was featured on the Trevor Noah show. Judy is featured in Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is a 2020 American award winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production and is available on Netflix. She has been featured in numerous documentaries including on the history of the disability rights movement, including Lives Worth Living and the Power of 504 and delivered a TED talk in the fall of 2016, “Our Fight for Disability Rights- and Why We’re Not Done Yet”. Her story was also told on Comedy Central’s Drunk History in early 2018, in which she was portrayed by Ali Stroker,. As Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation (2017-2019), she wrote “Road Map for Inclusion: Changing the Face of Disability in Media”. She also currently serves on a number of non-profit boards, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Humanity and Inclusion, as well as the Human Rights Watch board.
Ali Stroker (born June 16, 1987) is an American actress and singer. She is the first actress who uses a wheelchair for mobility to appear on a Broadway stage, and to be nominated for and win a Tony Award. Stroker was a finalist on the second season of The Glee Project, and later appeared as a guest star on Glee in 2013. She played the role of Anna in Deaf West's 2015 revival of Spring Awakening. She won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in Oklahoma!
Ali Stroker grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey with her parents, Jody Schleicher and Jim Stroker, as well as an older brother, Jake, and a younger sister, Tory. At the age of two, Stroker was in a car accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the chest down. Unable to walk, she uses a wheelchair. She attended Ridgewood High School, where she was senior class president and starred in school musicals.Stroker trained with the Summer Musical Theater Conservatory program at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.
In 2009, Stroker became the first actress who uses a wheelchair to earn a degree from the New York University Tisch Drama Department, with a degree in Fine Arts.
In 2014 she had a role in the film Cotton alongside Gary Cole. In 2014 and 2015 Stroker had a three episode role playing Wendy in the MTV series, Faking It.
In 2015 she made history by becoming the first Broadway actress who uses a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage. She originated the role of Anna in Deaf West's 2015 revival of Spring Awakening.
In 2017 Stroker was cast as Tamara in the ABC show Ten Days in the Valley.
In 2018 she played Ado Annie in St. Ann's Warehouse's critically acclaimed revival of Oklahoma! The production transferred to Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre in 2019, earning Stroker a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, making her the first disabled person to be nominated for and to receive that award.
Mallory Weggemann (born March 26, 1989) is a Paralympic swimmer from the USA. She became a T10-complete paraplegic after an epidural injection to treat post-shingles back pain in 2008. She broke many world records in the S7 classification, and won multiple gold medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships in 2009 and 2010.
At the 2012 Paralympics, she was controversially reclassified to S8, a class for swimmers with less impairment. She won the S8 50 metre freestyle event in a new Paralympic record time.
Just under four months after becoming paralyzed Mallory was back in the pool, with her eyes on Gold at the 2012 Paralympic Games. Having achieved that goal, she decided it was time to chase her ultimate dream, to walk again. For years, this was something that was deemed impossible, but a new possibility arose and in order to achieve her goal, Mallory reached out to the public to ask for their support through a crowd funding Indiegogo campaign. On November 16, 2013 Mallory was able to "walk" again for the first time in nearly six years, with the aid of customized leg braces and forearm crutches. Although Mallory's wheelchair will never be replaced by her braces and crutches, they have allowed her to have short moments of upright mobility and the freedom of standing at her 5' 9" stature again.
Currently, Weggemann continues to train in pursuit of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and actively building upon her career outside of the pool through motivational speaking and other public appearances around the world. Mallory will also be featured in "The Current," a documentary produced by Make A Hero, a non-profit organization focused on inspiring individuals with disabilities to enjoy the freedom of adaptive sports.