Paraplegic nurse fights disability discrimination

In honor of the Month of Women’s History, meet a nurse who works to stop discrimination against people with disabilities: Andrea Dalzell.

Dalzell grew up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in New York City. When she was five years old, she was diagnosed with a neurological disorder affecting the spinal cord. At the age of 12 she was paraplegic. Today Dalzell is a nurse at a school in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and has a full plate.

“Full-time job, I’m in full-time to do my master’s degree in nursing,” she says. “I am also a volunteer. I am also a disability rights attorney. “

Dalzell had to fight every step of the way. After graduating in biology, she was accepted into nursing school, but faced obstacles, starting with orientation.

“Maybe 45 minutes after the orientation, I was pulled out by professors and they said,” We don’t know if you can be a nurse, we don’t know if you can be here, “she says.

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Dalzell fought with the school’s office for diversity and integration for their place. Then, after graduation, she hit another wall. “I did 76 interviews in about a year and they all turned them down,” she says.

She was finally able to get a desk job until the coronavirus hit, and she was working on a COVID-19 unit at Montefiore Hospital.

“I was there for over two and a half months working COVID, lifting patients, rotating, doing CPR and running full codes,” says Dalzell.

“Andrea is like this amazing ball of energy that you just can’t contain and that can explode at any time to create light for everyone in her room,” says her mentor George Gallego. He is the director of the Axis Project, a self-described multidisciplinary center targeting people with physical disabilities.

Just a few months ago, Dalzell won the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize, which is endowed with a grant of 1 million US dollars. She uses the money to found a non-profit organization called The Seated Position to create opportunities for people with disabilities.

“Don’t listen to someone else’s no, just keep talking. Don’t calm down, ”says Dalzell. That’s the way to force change, she says.

Dalzell says The Seated Position will be an organization that not only helps people with disabilities find a job or apply for school, but also hopes this is the perfect middle step for those who don’t know what they are supposed to do after they have acquired a disability.

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