No Boundaries Photo Project: Robin Wilson-Beattie, Production Assistant & Leader in Self-Advocacy
No Boundaries Photo Project: Robin Wilson-Beattie, Production Assistant & Leader in Self-Advocacy

Categories: Employment, No Boundaries

A photograph of Robin Wilson-Beattie.
For most people, the start of a new year involves making (or breaking) resolutions. But for Robin Wilson-Beattie, 2004 brought the diagnosis of an intradural spinal arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a rare congenital birth defect, which was located inside her spinal cord at the C4 level. Her AVM had started to bleed, and the pressure on her spine was causing both mobility and neurological issues.

After three surgeries to remove her AVM, Robin learned she would spend the rest of her life with a C4 incomplete spinal cord injury. She also discovered she was pregnant with her daughter, Abigael.  “Her very existence represents the importance of being assertive and speaking up for your needs,” says Robin, who credits her daughter with giving her hope during a very bleak and uncertain time. “Becoming a mother not only gave me a voice, but it led to my career.”


When she is not working as a community ambassador and blogging for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Robin assists with the production of “Handle with Care,” a radio show airing in Georgia that focuses on positive disability awareness. Her daily responsibilities include booking guests, composing interview questions, organizing promotional activities and assisting with outreach about the show. Since her job provides the flexibility to work from home, Robin says she can better manage her pain levels and place 100 percent of her energy toward her work.

“I’ve learned how important it is to be completely honest with yourself and your employer about your limitations,” says Robin, who also has severe clinical depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  That’s not to say she thinks that individuals with disabilities are incapable of achieving their goals. “You may have to work harder and differently, but eventually, you will get to there.”

Robin explains that a crucial part of her success and positive attitude comes from understanding her illness, avoiding triggers and finding things that improve her mental health, such as spending quality time with her daughter. “There are no cut-and-dry accommodations. What may work for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else with the same disability,” she says.

Through her role as a community ambassador, Robin regularly spreads awareness about spinal cord injuries and connects people to the right resources that can help them. She hopes that by openly disclosing her multiple disabilities, she can demonstrate how the right medical support can help anyone contribute to society.

Robin is currently writing a memoir about her experience as a mother with multiple disabilities and the lessons she’s learned along the way. “Attitude is a large part of happiness – and hope. I have a lot of hope.”

12 Responses to No Boundaries Photo Project: Robin Wilson-Beattie, Production Assistant & Leader in Self-Advocacy

  1. William R. E. Jr. says:

    I am the founding President of Special Housing For Citizens With Disabilities. I am on Facebook, http://www.flickr.com/special_services, http://www.twitter.com/wrej, http://www.myspace.com/wrej51. Look for my profiles and wheelchair logo wherever you find me. (My wheelchair logo is not on my twitter account).

    – William R. Elliott Jr.

  2. Mystery says:

    This website was…how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Thanks!

  3. Beverly C. says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. It has inspired me to start seeking knowledge of how I can be a advocate for my community. I really want to get it up and running again. I say thank you!!!

  4. Carlotte R. says:

    Robin, I’m writing in hope that I can get some kind of help because I’m having a very hard time and it has become very complicated for me. I am alone, can relate to some of these stories because I’m going through some very bad predicaments – abuse, homelessness, medical problems, identity theft, assault and have a child that has gone through a lot because of my situation. I don’t know if I’m able to make it because I don’t really have anyone and little communication, and some horrible incidents have happen to me. Pleading for help in Ohio. This has become a major concern because I don’t know or have anyone to protect me.

  5. Dee. says:

    Hi Robin,
    I really needed this today after looking for work for such a long time. I needed to see that others have risen above their “disability” and are able to work, enjoy personal time and more. Thank you so much for showing us it can be done. It’s not easy finding gainful employment with serious nerve type problems or any kind of chronic pain issues. I’m happy for you, you are the 10% who made it out of the deep. I fear the rest are still sinking or trying desperately to stay afloat.
    (Jo Ane is struggling so much – my prayers are with you. Where are you? Maybe I/we can help you get an O2 tank at home to save your portables and more. I know what it’s like).
    You’ve helped us with your life story and the hope it brings is so needed. Thank you for showing us it is possible to have a meaningful career and family to boot. :) God bless you and your family.
    Dee

  6. Shelley K. says:

    Nice story, Robin. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you & working together. Look forward to catching up soon.

  7. Angela says:

    Dear Robin,
    I so related to your article..I need some guidance or options for my future..is there anyway that I can speak or write to you directly?

  8. Jo Ann O. says:

    Robin,
    My hat is off to you. I am 49 years old, and have been self advocating since 2006. In 2007, I switched counties, and refiled in my new county. I knew exactly how long my funds would last after selling every possession of value. I sent mass emails to my city council, my House of Representatives, my personal senator, and many Philadelphia city officials. My calculations told me that by the beginning of Spring 2011, I would be hanging on by a thread. Well, I thought there is always emergency housing, no matter how much I hated the idea. I came to find, when my lease expired on May 1, 2011, that my dependency on Oxygen made me ineligible for emergency housing. I had spent the months prior marking off the days until my lease expired sending out mass faxes and emails. I had appeared at every agency that I could find listed for my area. I was homeless. Completely. I was robbed, the temperature went up to 104 degrees and I was hospitalized twice. Finally after expanding the amount of emails, phone calls, and faxes I was sending, I got an offer. My name has been in the system all this time, and there it stays, even though I am considered a priority because of my physical limitations. The office of Housing Support found me a spot in a home for AIDS patients. I was grateful for a roof over my head, and furious that this was considered a solution. I put these fine individuals at risk every time I sneeze. I am still sending mail, calling, writing, and soon will start screaming from the rooftops, as these are not solutions, there are other Jo Anns in Philadelphia who will have the same issues. I was a grant writer before I became disabled. I have no large intestine, chronic pain syndrome, COPD, interstitial cell disease and getting around with four oxygen tanks to last me 3 hours is all I am offered. The more utilitarian oxygen delivery devises are not available to me since I had to switch from Blue Cross to public health care. I am a prisoner by the options offered by my health care company. I feel as though the day I became homeless my life was taken with it as that is when my oxygen delivery system changed to the type that leaves me chained to this home.
    Here I am and the world I need to reach is all around me. Reading stories like yours makes me think that maybe I can see my way through to the other side.
    Thank you,
    Jo Ann

  9. Sego says:

    How does one get employers to be patient with neurological disabilities? For me, I tried everything and no employer for over 26 years has ever been able to tolerate my neuro disabilities which include physical, coordination, mobility, balance, visual spatial, auditory processing deficits, perceptual and judgment disabilities. Never passed a probation because of handicap. Tried state voc rehab and not able to help. Any ideas? Any special employment people for neurologically disabled people?

  10. Tom H. says:

    Robin, my name is Tom and I am a Vietnam Veteran and I can sympathize with you and send you all my prayers. I have had 4 back surgeries and the pain radiates down my leg so bad that I had to have a neuro stimulator put in to calm down the nerves so I can relate to you a little bit in all the pain you have. I am so sad to hear about this. Take care and God Bless you. Tom in Ohio

    • Judy says:

      I finally after having worked 2 and sometimes 3 jobs all my life, filed for disability. I had severe back problems and after 2 lower back surgeries, carpal tunal, and some type of inflammatory arthritis, decided to quit work and file. I thought that other people that filed were in worse shape than me, even though I really didn’t know the inside of their bodies. (Although I did see some that I know played the system.) I was afraid that if I did file for anything, I would think that other people would judge me, just like I judged them. But when you have to sleep in a desk chair, because if you lay down, the nerve pain from your back starts climbing from your feet upward when you stand up, and then you have to get somewhere to sit in a straight chair and cry, till it quits hurting so bad…well it was time to think, I’m not crazy, or trying to get free benefits… I’m disabled. How many people out there are so independant that we are totally broken down before we go for help? But I started realizing that I had worked all my life and paid into S.S. for this reason… my mind is sharp at 57, but my body really needs to be overhauled. Now with disability, I can sit down when I need to and get some much needed surgery for yet another fusion, if I haven’t waited too late…but it’s time for me to have a life and maybe be able to help other people, as your positive words do…thank you for posting.