Twenty years ago, Emily Perkins had a life-altering car accident during her first semester of college. Her car hydroplaned and crashed, resulting in Emily’s permanent paralysis from the shoulders down. After several months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, she returned to college with the help of a power wheelchair, voice dictation software, and other adaptive technology. Attending college with a severe disability was a daily struggle because the simplest tasks became extremely difficult, but she says it was well worth it. Emily received an A.A. in liberal arts from Bevill State Community College in 1999, a B.A. in English from Mississippi University for Women in 2002, and a Ph.D. from The University of Alabama in 2012. Her doctoral studies concentrated on American literature and disability studies. Emily won the Outstanding Teaching Award in the Department of English in 2006. In 2007 Emily helped launch UA’s Online Writing Center and was appointed as Online Writing Center Coordinator later that year, a position which she still holds. In her dissertation she explored the intersection between disability studies and Chicano studies, and it won the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the arts and sciences division of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2012. Emily has presented her work at national conferences for the Society for Disability Studies, and her work has been published in Disability Studies Quarterly. She plans to pursue additional academic writing an to work on a collection of memoirs about her life as a disabled Southern woman, a life that she says is a complex one, filled with both humor and heartbreak. Along with pursuing writing, Emily plans to continue her volunteer work for a nonprofit newspaper for low-income families, her advocacy for disability rights, and her hobby of mouthstick painting.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.