Carden Wyckoff: Activist & Disability Advocate

Carden Wyckoff in wheelchair in Midtown

Carden Wyckoff- Activist

Diagnosed with the progressive disease Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) at age nine, Carden has never let it slow her down. If anything, it has only pushed her forward. In 2017, she was named to the FSHD Society’s Executive Board of Directors, one of the youngest board members in decades. In addition, she is the Chairwoman of Atlanta’s Accessibility and Inclusion Task Force and recently worked on a resolution to change the city’s disability icon—which passed this January!

What’s the most impactful thing you’ve learned through the FSHD Society?

The power of the community ignites the path forward. Understanding that since the disease is progressive, you can learn from others who are further along than you and provide comfort and expertise to those who are newly diagnosed. This helps build and strengthen the community. We are a family.

Why was it important for the disability icon to receive an upgrade?

The new disability icon
The new disability icon

Historically, the accessible icon is a person in a wheelchair at a static 90 degrees. The lack of movement further associates people with disabilities as helpless, needing to be fixed and always taken care of. People with disabilities are movers and shakers. We redefine ‘normal’; we are problem solvers, adaptive and raise our voices to build equity. The icon shift to a forward-moving person in a wheelchair at 45 degrees connects the subconscious to this positive mindset.

What are some ways you stay motivated when things get tough or when you are feeling discouraged or burnt out?

Having a strong mental health foundation is key to success. When I feel burnt out, I take personal time off and roll around town doing anything but ‘work.’ But when things get tough, I thrive. I take a step back to understand and evaluate what needs to happen with a beginner’s mindset and then keep at it.

What advice do you have for people to better understand the obstacles people with disabilities face? 

The world has no shortage of barriers, whether physical or digital. Become an ally for the disability community by working to remove these barriers. Challenge yourself to implement strategies to elevate people with disabilities. Recognize your own bias by educating yourself on ableism and ableist language. Accessibility should be run like a business and included in every project. Hire people with disabilities. Ask people with disabilities to provide feedback. Nothing about us without us.

To learn more about Carden visit: freewheelinwithcarden.com, Instagram.com/cardenofmilk

Meet the rest of our 2021 Inspiring Innovators Under 40 here.

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