Ali Ingersoll, of North Carolina, was crowned back in August as the new Ms. Wheelchair America 2023! While winning the competition certainly was a “crowning” achievement for Ali, she has her eyes set even higher, with plans to use her time as titleholder to help promote disability inclusion on all fronts. Running in the competition with a platform focused on health insurance advocacy, Ali is making it her mission to share her experiences navigating the health insurance appeals process in order to teach others how they can advocate for themselves in the complex world of health insurance.
Ali sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) in 2010 when a diving accident left her paralyzed from the chest down, a C6 quadriplegic. During years of surgeries and rehab, she experienced constant challenges getting approval for the care she needed.
“I had unconsciously been fighting health insurance battles for many years for medically-necessary equipment I needed to not only survive in life, but to thrive, and I kept getting denied through insurance,” she said.
She eventually taught herself how to write letters of medical necessity using peer-backed journals and studies. Left and right, she started seeing approvals come in from her insurance. Ali started getting involved in spinal cord Facebook groups to share her successes and help others as they went through similar challenges. Seeing the impact her experiences had on others in her community, Ali sought to expand her advocacy mission.
“My largest piece of advice to anyone is that you have to be your own self-advocate. No one is going to do this for you.” Her hope is that people can use her guide as a resource to overcome barriers as they fight for the medical approvals they need to thrive in life.
Ali is a disability-inclusion force that cannot be stopped, taking her mission all the way to Washington D.C., where she attended a congressional briefing on reclassifying seat elevators and power standing wheelchairs as medically necessary equipment.
Seeking to “push the boundaries of inclusion further than just in healthcare,” Ali also works as a disability strategy consultant. She consults with organizations to improve the inclusivity of their web design for those vision, hearing, or mobility impairments.
While her competitive nature was initially in full swing at the Ms. Wheelchair America competition, she said within the first 12 hours of her arrival that weekend, she couldn’t help but feel an immediate connection to the women around her.
“It was all about comradery and building those relationships with one another. It’s a competition, but at the same time, when you have a disability and you’re in a competition where you all have your own medical challenges, you kind of work together. You build each other up,” she said.
By the night of the crowning, Ali was no longer focused on winning, so it came as a genuine surprise to hear her name announced over the microphone. However, she wasn’t the only one celebrating her victory that evening.
“I had this eerie calm all over. When they did call my name, I was like, ‘Wait, what? Oh my gosh.’ My mom actually cried. For me, the most special moment in the competition was my mother,” she said. “She came up to the stage and she cried. She was there the day I broke my neck when I took a shallow water dive. She actually rolled me over and saved my life. She has been there with me through thick and thin every day. She did not have to dedicate the last twelve years of her life to me, but she has and she still chooses to. Even when I try to push her away.”
She continued, “Watching her and that moment of culmination from twelve years ago to watching her baby – even though I’m 39 years old – on the stage…for me, it was all about that moment.”
You can learn more about Ali and her advocacy efforts by visiting her website, the Quirky Quad.
MobilityWorks is proud to be the exclusive transportation sponsor of the Ms. Wheelchair America competition. Give us a call at 877-275-4907 to see how we can help you find the right mobility solution for your needs.
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