Meet Alyssa Higgins! She created behind-the-scenes-type social media posts in September for Spinal Injury Awareness Month to talk about her personal experience living with it. In the spirit of Disability Awareness Month this October, let’s celebrate her story that inspired the way she advocates for folks living with disabilities.
“[I’m] so pumped knowing not only do I inspire others who have disabilities, but I inspire people who don’t have disabilities,” Higgins shares.
When Alyssa was born, her doctor used forceps that broke her spine in the process which resulted in a spinal injury that requires her to use a wheelchair and a ventilator. “A spinal cord injury is affected by a breakage in the spine. It could be broken on any part of the spine. Each spinal cord injury is different for everyone,” Higgins says.
“My spinal cord injury is a C1-C2 incomplete which is the very top of the spine connected to the neck. What does incomplete mean though? It means that the break did not interfere with function such as movement but for me, it interfered with my diaphragm that led to me being on a breathing machine.”
At their June wedding in 2019, Alyssa Higgins married her best friend Jimmy. She used her Instagram account to document her wedding planning journey and her big day in a way that’s meant to let others see that disabilities don’t need to overshadow the joy of life.
“Has [my disability] affected our relationship? For me, yes, in a positive way. I honestly wouldn’t be doing the things I do today if it wasn’t for him. He took full responsibility for me from my family. My mother was always my personal caregiver before him and in the beginning of our relationship, but as she grew trust for him, it was all him,” Higgins says.
As wedding professionals, we eagerly step up to the plate as we navigate any challenge we encounter in wedding day plans. The same cadence applies when we coordinate wedding day details that specifically accommodate brides, grooms, and guests living with disabilities. Go beyond making sure the wedding venue is ADA compliant. In initial consultations with your clients, ask them about the best ways you can support either them or disabled special wedding guests to make the optimal wedding experience seamless and accessible.
This is a simple way to demonstrate to your couple that you care about how to make the wedding planning experience as graceful as the wedding day itself. Your professional support and accommodations don’t just apply to the big day. Inquire about how to best support your couple navigate the entire wedding planning journey all the way through the end of the reception—from tastings to rehearsal, dress fittings to transportation, and everything in between.
Higgins has a very small frame and says that her wedding dress was essentially cut in half to fit. “Our first dance [was] the song Heaven by DJ Sammy—the candlelight version—and we decided to do dancing on the clouds,” she shares. “It was basically like being in heaven!”
There are many disabilities that we also can't see but deserve just as much visibility during Disability Awareness Month. This month is an annual opportunity for us to check up on our awareness of disabilities of all kinds and practice vulnerability with our compassion regarding the topic. We have the bandwidth to both ensure that we’re aware of how to best meet our clients’ needs and that every wedding attendee has a spectacular time on the wedding day, regardless of disability.
Want to see more from Ivy? Check out her website voulezevents.com!