After a car accident left Ali Stroker paralyzed from the chest down at the age of two, she says she spent her early childhood years letting her disability define her.
It wasn’t until she performed in a musical when she was seven years old that she realized she was “ready to be more than just a girl in a wheelchair.”
“I fell in love with musical theater and with performing, and it really gave me this other identity,” said Stroker. “Up until I was seven, this was — my disability and my wheelchair was my identity, and I was really ready to move beyond that.”
And move beyond that she did. Stroker started acting professionally at the age of 11, and became the first actress in a wheelchair to earn a degree from the NYU Tisch Drama Department before setting her sights on Broadway.
In September 2015, Stroker made history as the first actress in a wheelchair on Broadway in her debut role playing Anna in a revival of the 2006 Tony award-winning musical Spring Awakening. The show, which addressed many risky subjects like teenage sex, abortion, homosexuality, and bondage also featured other disabled actors like Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, who is deaf.
“I think that things are changing, hopefully there will be more people with disabilities representing themselves and they are seen in a sexual way,” said Stroker. “Because we are human beings and I think people with disabilities have such incredible abilities.”
Though the show finished its run this month, Stroker hopes to continue the conversation about disabled people and sex.