• Brandy O'Brien

Tony award winner speaks to VIABILITY; says storyline for people with disabilities needs to change

Updated: Jul 10

In June, Ali Stroker changed the narrative for people with disabilities when she became the first Broadway actor who uses a wheelchair to win a highly coveted Tony award for her performance in the musical “Oklahoma!” In her acceptance speech, she dedicated the award to youths with disabilities, limitations, and challenges who had been waiting to see themselves represented on Broadway. As October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month drew to a close, Ali fervently continued to voice her message: The story needs to change. Now.


Actress Ali Stroker holds her Tony award at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 9.

Oftentimes, there are misconceptions about individuals with disabilities. Their stories are about the disability, not the person. Ali wants to change that.


“I hope people with disabilities feel like they are seen and heard and accepted exactly as they are,” Ali said via an email interview with VIABILITY.


As a toddler, Ali had been in a car accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her from the chest down. She uses a chair for mobility. Yet, she refuses to let a disability define her. At age 7, she decided she wanted to be an actress after seeing her first musical, “Annie.”


“I fell in love with theatre and knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life,” Ali said. “It felt so clear.”


Ali sings mezzo-soprano and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She’s appeared in numerous regional, Broadway and off-Broadway productions, television and film roles, and lives by the motto, “Turning your limitations into opportunities.”


Despite her achievements, she said her greatest challenge has been trusting she is enough. By becoming the first person who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony, Ali is leading the way for those coming up in the profession behind her.


“It feels like this is exactly the way things should be. I do this for them and for my 7-year-old self who never saw anyone like her!”


To see Ali’s acceptance speech, go to https://binged.it/2WAloi5


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