She’s not supposed to be here. She coded – died – more than once when she was brought into the ER after being hit by random, senseless gunfire on Nov. 15, 2004. Her insurance company cancelled her on the spot, adding more worries on top of a spinal cord injury that kept her in the hospital for three months and then left her paralyzed. Her career – which took her around the world – was gone. Her lifetime of healthy living and being an incredible athlete seemed over. Any one of these challenges would discourage most people, but anyone who knows Jennifer Longdon knows she is anything but ordinary.
Today she is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and nationally recognized for her expertise in a key issue impacting disabled individuals: the ability to live independently. Her strength and fortitude come not only from within but from her relationships with other women.
"Every time I thought I couldn't, I found I could,” she said. Mostly, I got through the tough times by remembering that women were too tough to give up. My circles of girlfriends would surround me and support me through the toughest times. Women are far stronger than they realize or accept credit for."
Longdon has just been named the new chairperson of the Mayor’s Disability Commission for Phoenix, Ariz., the nation’s fifth largest city. She’s served on the commission since 2008. Her record of advocacy and accomplishments is impressive and includes raising more than $40,000 for spinal cord injury research and competing as a wheelchair user in the P.F. Chang Half Marathon in 2009 and again in 2010.
Her journey to this point wasn’t easy. Longdon’s return home from the hospital was to a house designed for “normal” people, not a woman in a wheelchair. She had no experience in home renovation, and it was difficult to find support resources. As she made changes that turned her house into a “home” she realized there was a greater need that was not being met in the disability community.
She became a professional Realtor© and “insider” who was able to effect change directly. Longdon also became a moderator for CareCure Community, a 36,000 member online housing forum for persons with spinal cord injury. She not only became engaged, she developed nationally recognized expertise in her field, and now serves as an expert consultant for realtors nationwide on disability and accessibility issues.
By working both inside and outside of the disabled community, and by continually taking her knowledge and expertise to the able-bodied community, she has been able to directly bring about changes including having adjustments made in the online database used by Arizona Realtors so it now clearly identifies accessible housing. Longdon’s work was recognized nationally when she received the 2010 Prudential Real Estate Association National Diversity Award. She regularly consults with fellow real estate professionals from all areas of the country.
Longdon says she’s looking forward to her new role for the city of Phoenix. "I am honored to serve the city. I believe when all residents are included in public planning and public spaces, we ensure a vibrant and diverse city for ourselves and our visitors," said Longdon.
What’s next for Longdon? She just started training for the 2011 P.F. Chang Half Marathon and plans to help raise funds for a new fitness center for Phoenix residents with disabilities. She’s also planning a 2011 trip to Norway, all expenses paid, as the guest of an advocacy group for disabled people so that she can provide expert information on making homes more accessible.
More information :
Jennifer Longdon’s website: http://www.jenniferlongdon.pruaz.com
KPHO-TV, Valley Woman Taking Steps To Inspire Others: Jennifer Longdon has been on a five-year journey to reclaim her life after she was shot and left paralyzed. http://www.kpho.com/sports/21721372/detail.html
Arizona Republic, New Link to Accessible Homes: Finding homes for thousands of Valley residents with physical challenges is on the threshold of getting easier. http://tinyurl.com/32pshre