Andrea Dalzell was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At five years old, she was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that causes pain, muscle weakness and paralysis. As a child, Dalzell alternated using a walker, crutches, and wheelchair, but by age 12, she used a wheelchair full-time.
At 33, Dalzell is the only registered nurse she knows of in New York City who uses a wheelchair, and she is forging a path for people with disabilities in healthcare. On the heels of a relentless and trying year where the importance of public health and the essential nature of health care workers were constantly reinforced; it’s hard to imagine a more ideal person to honor as the 2020 NEW MOBILITY Person of the Year.
In recognition of her achievements, Craig H. Neilsen Foundation selected Dalzell as one of the inaugural recipients of its Visionary Prize and awarded her $1 million to use at her discretion. Dalzell is still figuring out how she will use the money, but has already started a foundation to help bridge the gap between education and employment for people with physical disabilities.
We have no doubt that whatever Dalzell does will continue to build on the progress she has made, and we’re excited to see what her future holds. Her tenacity, compassion, and vision are exemplary to help shape her vocal leadership in a key, often-overlooked field.
The Visionary Prize was established to honor the memory and legacy of Craig H. Neilsen, an entrepreneur, with an SCI who strove to improve life for others living with spinal cord injuries. Dalzell is one of three recipients of the inaugural award. “Andrea is a role model and an advocate,” says the foundation’s executive director, Kym Eisner. “She is willing to share her story and fight for equality, in both the workplace and the community at large.”
“In the long run, I don’t want the prize to just benefit me, I want it to benefit others,” says Dalzell. She is working towards a master’s degree in nursing and already started a foundation, The Seated Position, to help people with physical disabilities obtain professional employment. “I am beyond grateful because I wouldn’t be this far without every single person who has come into my life, whether it’s been good or bad, because everyone gave me an experience that has shaped who I am right now.”
Andrea, we are in awe of you. Your strength, tenacity and grace moves us. Thank you for all of the important work you do, and for being yet another reminder that although these stories aren’t always the ones you see on the front page; good people are out there and are leading by example everywhere. You go girl!
Virtual high-fives and hell yeahs,