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RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

Lauren Arena smiling wearing glasses and a suit jacket. Arena is a wheelchair user.

Lauren Arena
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Lauren Arena (she, her) is Ms. Wheelchair NY 2020 and an accomplished Wheelchair Ballroom Dancer, and a certified dance therapy teacher. In 2021, Arena plans to compete for Ms. Wheelchair America. Her platform as Ms. Wheelchair NY is to encourage others to hold tight to never give up on their dreams; to share her passion for wheelchair ballroom dancing; and to raise awareness and funds for MEAK (Myoclonic Epilepsy and Ataxia).

Arena is one of only 20 known cases of MEAK worldwide and was the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with MEAK.  She is the co-founder of the Lauren Arena Foundation for MEAK Research page on Facebook to spread awareness about MEAK and to connect with others who have the condition. Arena also co-founded the Lauren Arena Fund for MEAK Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where promising research is being done into a possible treatment for MEAK. To date she has raised more than $21,000 that is being used to conduct further research.

A wheelchair ballroom dance performer and medalist, Arena’s passion for ballroom dancing began in 2013 when she joined Roll Call Wheelchair Dance. In 2015, she started taking lessons at Dance with Me Studios. She has performed several showcases and has done increasingly difficult choreography, including dance lifts! Arena competes in her wheelchair alongside standing dancers who do not use wheelchairs at Dance with Me events in both the tri-state area and Dallas. She recently joined DuDance. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arena was teaching a dance therapy program in nursing homes and hospitals – and looks forward to resuming this vital work.

In addition to dance, Arena enjoys traveling, painting, baking, editing pictures and videos, and social media, and working out with a personal trainer.  She also loves animals—especially dogs and horses.

Arena’s story has been told on Dance with Me USA and Dance Network blogs. She was featured on NJTV news last year and was “New Yorker of the Week” on NY1 in October 2019.

About RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau

RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau offers diverse speakers with disabilities to teach about disability inclusion; and/or to offer their expertise in an array of topics, ranging from Art and Entertainment to Entrepreneurship, Education, Finance, Law, Psychology, Religion (of many faiths) and every vocation in between. Our Speakers Bureau and its divisions are expanding. If this is of interest to you or you know a professional with a visible or nonvisible disability who might be interested, you (or she/he/they) can email

Meet the Author

Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

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