Beginning karate may not be the class you’d expect to find UW-Green Bay senior Jennifer Ulrich in. Spina bifida and cerebral palsy have confined her to a wheelchair.
“I can kick and use my legs but I can’t stand or walk unaided,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich is used to doing the unexpected. Last year, the Human Development and psychology major set her sights on a new $40,000 wheelchair that would allow her to stand.
“Standing was very important because I could see people face to face, self-esteem, I could reach cabinets and do chores that were once very difficult for me. And I could participate in a lot more things at a quote-unquote normal level than I would if I were sitting lower than everybody else,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich set her goal as part of a personal conditioning class.
“I followed it in a journal, three times a week, and just worked at my goal and my goal was to get my standing wheelchair,” Ulrich said.
The first place she went was her insurance company.
“Insurance actually told me standing is a luxury not a necessity,” Ulrich said.
But she would not take no for an answer. She continued searching for a solution to her $40,000 problem. She found it at the Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
“They decided that a standing wheelchair would help me most in school and when getting a job and interviews so that an employer does not have to accommodate me. I can do the job myself,” Ulrich said.
So about one month ago, Ulrich got her new wheels:
“This chair is the C500 VS Permobil,” Ulrich said.
Now at the push of a button, Ulrich can stand. She hopes her experience sends a message to others about perseverance. In fact, she has been invited back to the class, this time as a motivational speaker.
“No matter what challenges you may face, if you keep an open mind anything is possible,” Ulrich said.