This is the Way She Rolls

Miss WheelchairBy Heidi McKenzie

August 4, 2007 is a date that forever changed my life when I became a T-4 paraplegic at the age of 21.

On a foggy night, driving a little too fast on my way home from a mud volleyball tournament, I missed a curve and crashed my car into a tree.

I don’t remember a lot of that day, but I am a believer that things are meant to happen for a reason.

An optimist at heart, I’ve never thought “What if?” I have always focused on what my next move in life will be.

Recovery consisted of having to learn how to breath on my own, speak and eat all over again as well as learning my new normal as a paraplegic.

The hospital stay and intense therapies lasted for four months until I was able to go home.

After getting through the mourning process and coming to terms that I would never walk again, I realized I was exactly where I needed to be.

With the support of my family and friends and even strangers who prayed for me and sent notes, I knew I had to make the best out of the situation.

Today, I live each day with a smile on my face and I live life to the fullest.
I have come to know myself better and have a voice to show it.

Being able to drive was the biggest part of gaining back my independence. The feeling of being able to do things on your own again is indescribable.

Society doesn’t realize how precious those little things in life are until those possibilities are stripped away from you.

In 2011, after going back to college, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Small Business Management from Morehead State University in 2011.

In 2012, I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky after which I became an advocate for those in wheelchairs.

I traveled across the country, sharing my story with Girl Scout troops, college, high school and elementary students, and whoever else would listen to a girl in a wheelchair with a crown, wave, smile and the desire to inspire other people!

I competed in Ms. Wheelchair America and though I didn’t win, it was my first experience with 20-something women in wheelchairs.

It was like we all had this understanding of how we roll.

This also gave me the opportunity to realize many common problems that we all share.

Being the stylish diva that I am, I realized very quickly that finding fashionable, functional clothing was nearly impossible for me and my friends on wheels.

So I set out to create a design so my friends and I could roll in style with our daily activities in mind.

That’s when Alter Ur Ego was born. We make you look good so you feel good.
I want to make it possible for those with disabilities to express their “alter-ego” through fashion while breaking down social barriers.

My first product line is jeans, which I’ve made fashionable, functional and comfortable for men and women in wheelchairs.

heidi mckenzie third photo

Length options are available so when you are sitting your jeans aren’t riding up.
Pockets are located on the thighs for easy access, and there is an invisible catheter opening for girls to make things a little easier.

In addition, the jeans are equipped with a tummy control panel because we can’t suck in our bellies, and you know everybody wants to be able to do that!

The back waistline is higher than in the front so when you are bending over your crack isn’t showing.

The back waistband is also elastic and there are straps to help pull your jeans up and get all that junk in your trunk.

In July 2015, I launched a kickstarter campaign for my company, Alter UR Ego: Wheelchair Fashion, Made in the USA, that was successfully funded when 465 backers came together and believed in making Alter Ur Ego a reality!

After a slow start and only eight days left we raised nearly $20,000.

Once the media caught the story it spread like wild fire. Articles were featured on Yahoo News, Mashable, Huffington Post, GOOD Magazine, Hello Giggles, Digital Journal, Fox News,, EcoSalon, written in Japanese and Portuguese and it even reached MTV Finland and a blogger in Scotland.

This campaign has funded my first production run of men’s and women’s adaptable jeans.

My manufacturer is located in North Carolina and the jeans will be sold online to reach as many people as possible that can benefit from them.

One of the rewards of the campaign was an option for those to Pay It Forward, where backers were able to buy a pair a jeans for someone they know in a wheelchair or someone who can benefit from them.

Those jeans will be used for prizes in social media competitions in 2016, as well as given away to those in need.

As my business grows, I also work part-time at our family business, McKenzie Concrete of KY.

In addition, I volunteer at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington as a mentor for newly injured spinal cord patients, inspiring them to try to look for the bright side in any situation.

I’m also a board member of the Kentucky Congress on Spinal Cord Injury (KCSCI), which is dedicated to educate and legislate change for the SCI community in Kentucky.

As a member of KARRN (Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network), I help residents of Eastern Kentucky find suitable therapies.

I also serve on the board of Build Inclusion, Inc., the parent company of AIM! Advocacy & Inclusion on a Mission, which teaches young students about the power of community inclusion and accessibility.

I feel that I have the duty to reach out and help people in any way I can.
For fun I like to participate in adaptive sports.

Two years in a row I went to Empire, Colorado to an adaptive sports camp for girls, where I have tried everything from scuba diving, kayaking, go-cart racing, tennis, archery, horseback riding, yoga and hand cycling.

As an inclusive company, I intend to market to every demographic available because I don’t want anybody left out of this opportunity.

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