Rosemary Ciotti
Age 59, Wheelchair User
Photographed by Anne Bielamowicz


I began losing my balance and my speech started to slur when I was 34 years old with a dream job as a nurse practitioner and educator. I had recently married the most wonderful man and was now pregnant.  By the time our daughter was two I was using a wheelchair and on IV chemo agents to attempt to halt a rare auto- immune disease.

Our dream house in horse country near Philadelphia was now my prison. We relocated to DC where there were more opportunities. In no time my new friends in wheelchairs taught me how to ride METRO and NOT get caught in the doors, along with a crash course in the ADA.  I was slowly regaining my independence now that I was in an accessible community.

My life in a wheelchair took on special purpose when I saw my new friends getting inequitable health care. As a result, in 1999 Accessible Living, Inc. was formed to provide health care coordination and advocacy for persons with disabilities. Wheelchair users have barriers to health care screening due to the lack of accessible equipment so I became involved with the Access Board to develop regs –especially for accessible mammography. Wellness requires accessible housing and inclusive communities, which led me to become a Planning Commissioner in Arlington County. Since becoming a wheelchair user I have really missed sports but in 2013 I discovered DIVEHEART SCUBA, bringing the benefits of SCUBA to persons with disabilities.  Floating free of gravity as well as my wheelchair, swimming alongside sea turtles, barracudas, coral, ferns, sponges and moray eels leaves me without words except to say that adaptive SCUBA has made my life beautiful, amazing, mesmerizing and complete, especially since my dive buddy is my husband!!

Keep building community and keep embracing life-on land and under the sea!