Danielle Sheypuk, a psychologist, can rock a pair of Louboutins, regardless of her wheelchair, and is fighting the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding people with disabilities. As Ms. Wheelchair New York 2012, she says her mission can be summed up in one phrase: "I want to make dating someone in a wheelchair cool and sexy."
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Danielle grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a small town with a country setting. She was born with spinal muscular atrophy and got her first wheelchair in kindergarten. She says she never felt different and still doesn't. Her wheelchair never got in the way of making friends and having a social life.
In college, Danielle majored in psychology and went on to get her PhD. Today, she is a practicing therapist, specializing in assisting disabled people with relationships. Through Skype, she is able to help those who may have a difficult time getting to a traditional doctor's office. She says her interest in helping people with disabilities with dating and relationships stems from her own struggles and experiences dating.
"I tell my friends that I'm doing field research when I go out on dates," laughs Danielle. "It's human nature to want to find a significant other. If you throw a disability on top of it, it's extra difficult."
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Danielle says rejection is a common obstacle many disabled people must overcome. She explains, "Do I let it bum me out, just abandon the goal, or do I know how to pick myself back up?"
By integrating psychology and her desire to assist people with their love lives, Danielle says she's doing exactly what she's meant to be doing with her life. "I feel like the only way we're going to change society's views of people in wheelchairs is to really put it out there and put it in people's faces," says Danielle. "Can people handle it? I hope so. I think so. I'm ready for the challenge."
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