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People Empowered: Caitlyn

“It’ll be nine years next month since I had my accident. I was in my sophomore year of college, was just hanging out with friends and decided to climb a tree. When I was climbing back down, I fell and landed on my neck. I have an incomplete cervical spinal cord injury, so I’m technically a quadriplegic, but being that it’s incomplete I have a lot more movement and ability than the textbook would say. A couple of years after my spinal cord injury, after getting back to school, finishing undergrad and starting grad school, I got sick with Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. I went through chemo for that, went back to grad school... and then COVID hit and here we are! I’ll be three years cancer-free this year.”

“When you study fashion, you see that one object takes so many hands and that so many different things are involved in getting to that one final piece. Whether you’re looking at it from a modern perspective of what genetically modified cotton seed somebody is using to how they’re transporting stuff, versus the historical perspective like what new technology created that, it’s just so multi-dimensional. Fashion history isn’t just art; it’s politics, technology, international trade, all of these things. I think that’s the best thing that fashion has done for me: I can look at everything as being multi-dimensional and know that it’s not just a surface-level thing, it’s so much deeper.”

“It’s definitely gotten a bit better, certainly recently, but there’s still a lack of physical disabilities in fashion. Fashion has such power; it tells us not just that fashion itself is desirable, but the models that fashion designers choose to use are what we see as desirable, and that’s something disability has never been shown as. So, I think it’s important to the disabled community to include people with disabilities because it’s a good way to show that these people are valuable, desirable and worthy of being considered fashionable.”

“Right now, I’m focused on trying to find a balance. I’ve found over the years that I’ve focused either too much on working towards the possibility of walking, or focusing on living my life as best I can in a wheelchair, and there’s definitely no reason that I can’t do both. I’m hoping to get back on my exercise regimen but look more into adaptive sports - like skiing or adaptive mountain biking - and things that I can do with my wheelchair that I haven’t gotten the opportunity to try yet. I just want to try to live my life to the fullest!”

“For pushing whatever limits that have been set by myself or society and never giving up. I hope that people remember that because I hope it inspires them to do the same thing.”

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