Laurel Elizabeth Labdon of Brewster, Massachusetts was selected as Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts by the Executive Board
of the Ms. Wheelchair America Program in January of 2005. The program, on both the state and national levels, provides
an opportunity for women of achievement who utilize wheelchairs to advocate for individuals with disabilities.
Massachusetts did not have the Ms. Wheelchair Program until Laurel was selected as an Independent Delegate in 2005. As
Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2005, she was a finalist at the national pageant held in Albany, New York in July of that
year. As the founder of the Massachusetts Program, after serving as Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2005 for 16 months,
Laurel devoted 2005 to public speaking, education and working on behalf of those with disabilities. She continues to work
on behalf of the disabled community in both her professional and personal life.
Laurel's disability, a C-5, 6 level incomplete spinal cord injury, has not dampened her love of traveling, sailing and enjoying
the beauty of Cape Cod. She is empowered by her disability and uses her experience to advocate for disability issues on
local, state and national levels.
As Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2005, and to this day, she is devoted in her passion to help others, and committed to the
many issues presently being discussed and debated by our lawmakers, such as medical research, social security reform, and
the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill.
Born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Laurel grew up on Cape Cod,
Massachusetts, where she still lives with her family. An avid sailor all of her
life she lived for a year with her family on their beloved sailboat and traveled
from Cape Cod to South America. This experience led her back to Colorado to
study Political Science and Third World Development at the University of
Colorado at Boulder. Finishing her last two years of college after her injury
proved to be a crash course in disability advocacy as Laurel was the first
wheelchair user to study full-time for an undergraduate degree and live on
campus. The university responded and upon her graduation in 1996 the
Boulder campus is much more wheelchair friendly and they now have an truly
|Laurel Elizabeth Labdon hopes to reach
new heights as Ms. Wheelchair
|Laurel, a devoted Red Sox fan, at a
championship series game against the reviled
Yankees with her brother Justin. Go Sox!
Laurel's advocacy endeavors did not stop there. She worked for eight year's as
a teacher's aide and a counselor's aide at a local elementary school. She
focused her attention on the children in most need of her encouragement and
special attention. As a counselor she ran social groups to facilitate
relationships and healthy behaviors between students with disabilities and their
peers. Despite her love for the kids and the fulfillment she found in working
with them, she moved on to become an Independent Living Advocate for the
non-profit agency, the Cape Organization for the Rights of the Disabled.
(CORD). She then founded her own disability consulting and advocacy
business, C.A.L.L (Consulting & Advocacy by Laurel Labdon) to assist others,
particularly wheelchair users, in gaining independence and self-sufficiency.
As Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2005 she was able to address many of her
local concerns, such as vocational opportunities for the disabled and accessible
housing and transportation. On a broader state and national level her focus
was bringing a disability perspective to medical research, social security reform
and the future of Medicaid and Medicare. Laurel will also continue to try to
bring attention to the medical and fiscal benefits of raising the standards of
reimbursed durable medical equipment. Fortunate enough to own a power
standing wheelchair herself, she will seek to raise the awareness of the benefits
of the advancements in wheelchair technology...and work until this type of
equipment becomes, not the exception, but the rule.
|Laurel's Redman Standing Power
Wheelchair provides not only medical
benefits but functional benefits as well.
|Laurel at work as a Disability Issues
Specialist. Her consulting business,
C.A.L.L., provides skills training, peer
support and information referral to others
Laurel is very involved in her community. She was active in planning the
Bicentennial celebration of her hometown of Brewster, and she continues to
participate in sailing programs by volunteering at the Hyannis Yacht Club as a
race scorer. Ms. Labdon's love of reading is something she is passionate about
passing along to young children. She has volunteered at local museums and
schools as a guest reader and story teller. After one of her many public
appearances at local schools as Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2005 she
received a well deserved acknowledgement of her continued commitment to
making reading a priority for children.
Laurel is also passionate about medical research...and she puts her money where
her mouth is! She recently completed a 31 week Spinal Cord Injury Pain Study at
Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. Her participation in the study not only
provided significant benefits for herself but she was also able to see firsthand the
passion and dedication of the research staff. She has also been is involved in a
Spinal Cord Injury Pain clinical trial. A strong believer that there is a way to
marry medical research with medical ethics that will allow the United States to
remain the standard bearer for medical research and innovation, Laurel strongly
encourages any one who is able to participate and support medical research.
"There are so many people out there dedicating their time, money and, indeed,
their life's work to study and gather information that could be beneficial to the
disabled, I feel that my participation is the least I can do."
If you would like to learn how you can participate in a study please LEARN MORE
about studies currently underway. This is an opportunity to help yourself and
Laurel is often asked why she decided to become involved in the Ms. Wheelchair
America Program and bring it to Massachusetts. "I felt that 2005 was an
especially opportune time to become involved as many issues affecting the
millions of Americans with disabilities were in the spotlight. I feel that it is very
important to bring a disability perspective to the stem cell research debate, social
security reform and the future of the healthcare system in this country." By
becoming involved in the national pageant and bringing the program to
Massachusetts, Laurel hopes that women with disabilities will use this unique
forum to lend their voice to issues they feel passionate about. "I have always felt
that the accomplishments I have achieved have been reached, not in spite of my
disability, but because of my disability. Living with a disability gives you a unique
knowledge and understanding that can't be taught, and I truly believe that this
knowledge and understanding can positively affect public policy." She is also
hoping the pageant experience will foster confidence, focus and motivation to
become involved. "Last year's pageant theme was 'United We Roll. Together We
Rock.' and I was so impressed by that. 2005's theme was 'Women Making
History'. I feel that if we are united we absolutely have the potential to make
The latest obstacle Laurel has worked to overcoming is driving independently
after almost 16 years. "Having sustained my injury in an automobile accident,
getting behind the wheel again is an emotional hurdle. When I realized that I
couldn't accomplish all that I wanted to without being able to independently
transport myself...I went for it. My desire to help people and get more deeply
involved in advocacy efforts was stronger that my fear." After purchasing a
Toyota Sienna minivan, the MASSACHUSETTS REHABILITATION
COMMISSION is funding both structural modifications and high-tech electronic
hand controls. "My vocational rehabilitation counselor and MRC have been, not
only generous in their investment in me but in their support of my future goals as
well. I certainly couldn't fund these modifications and hand controls myself, so
they have been invaluable to me."
UPDATE!!!! On June 8, 2007 Laurel passed her road test and received her
driver's license! Her new found independence has allowed her to increase
her advocacy work and follow up on the great contacts she made during her
reign as Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2005.
|This van is very similar to the one the Massachusetts
Rehabilitation Commission is modifying for Laurel.
She strongly advises everyone to take advantage of the
doors MRC, and equivalent programs in other states,
Laurel at work in her home gym. "I should work out
more! I do try to do all that I can to stay healthy, and so
far so good.
|Committed to maintaining her health, Laurel is as physically active as she can be,
although, like everybody else, she admits to not being as regimented as she
should be. By living an active life, watching her nutritional intake and
supplementing her diet with vitamins, Laurel hopes to be physically ready when a
cure is discovered for spinal cord injury...and in the meantime anticipates living a
long and productive life.
|The University of Colorado nestled in the and
Foothills of the Rocky Mountains. An already
beautiful campus made more beautiful by
|Ms Wheelchair Massachusetts Foundation
A Program of Achievement, Advocacy and Opportunity for
Women with disAbilities in Massachusetts