Notes by Claudia Potamkin: Katherine Magnoli

The superhero author advocates from her wheelchair

Author Katherine Magnoli advocates for people with disabilities through her children's books.

One day when she was 25 years old, Katherine Magnoli met a young boy who told her how sorry he was for her because she was in a wheelchair. Magnoli  didn’t see her disability as sorrowful in any way and something ignited within her. She began writing, The Adventures of Kat Girl.

“If I can educate children early then this trend of negativity surrounding disabilities will eventually die down,” says Magnoli. She recently published Pete, the private Eye whose protagonist is blind and other characters with different disabilities will be developed in future books.

The author writes, advocates and works from her wheelchair after being born with the birth defect, Spina Bifida, 35 years ago. Even outside of her work, Magnoli  says she likes when people ask her direct questions about how she accomplishes every day things, like getting out of bed or putting on a pair of jeans. She explains to them in detail with body motions included, even expressing the things she calls comical; putting her listeners at ease with her candor. Magnoli is very open during her presentations with people who want to ask questions. She recalls that some past boyfriends have been less than thrilled that she’s shared certain aspects of her life in magazine articles. She maintains that this is part of her desire to educate. She holds nothing back in advocating for a better cognizance of the approximately 65 million strong disabled community.

Katherine Magnoli

Magnoli was born the youngest in a family of seven children, and says she remembers always feeling loved and supported by them. She was a natural born storyteller and says she became fascinated when she saw her father using a typewriter at around the age of four, which is when she started writing in earnest. As a young girl she began volunteering with children who had learning disabilities and introduced to the struggles of bullying. She remembers being disturbed by how people treated and viewed those with all types of disabilities as her volunteerism continued.

Another example she sites that fueled her desire to advocate was when a man approached her in the airport and said, “God bless you.” Magnoli responded by asking, “Why are you blessing me?” He told her it was because she was in a wheelchair so Magnoli began, “Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t do things. I was Miss wheelchair Florida 2017 and advocated from that platform, I’ve met with mayors and governors to make changes within the state of Florida regarding beach access and anti bullying laws. I’ve met with educators about different programs I’ve created and I’m an author.”

“I gave him a list of all the things I’ve done throughout my life and he was mesmerized as I was speaking,” she remembers.  The man asked if he could take a picture with her and write about her on Facebook. He understood what he had not just moments earlier.

“I want to show anyone who doesn’t understand disability what we CAN do in spite of it,” says Magnoli, “and this is what I do every day of my life.”

Magnoli is direct and laughs easily, making her an effective communicator on a topic where people often feel uneasy. She busts the stigma wide open with her warm, and outgoing style of speaking. “People say I am an inspiration when they see me out at the supermarket.” It’s so funny to me How is that an inspiring? I’m going to do an errand! If you want to say that I’m inspiring because I write children’s’ books or I have a radio show then I take that as a compliment. It’s all about the context”.

Lighthearted, smart, and resolute. Katherine speaks reverently about her muse, Kat Girl. “She is so cool. She’s who I wish I was.” She is, according to this author, every bit the super heroine she writes about.

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