Sara Gaver | Beyond Face Value

Sara Gaver discusses the burden of being defined by people’s perceptions of her disability — rather than by her own achievements—and looks toward the day when “people conquer their fear of the unknown, especially my unknowns.”

Quoting a favorite writer, Sara observes, “Prejudice is a far greater problem than any impairment; discrimination is a bigger obstacle to overcome than any disability.” In her moving talk, she rejects limiting labels: “. . . Even though my arms don’t work, I can still reach out. And sometimes my legs may not work, but I can most definitely take a stand.”

At the time of her talk, Sara Gaver was a junior at the University of North Florida. Although she has a physical disability called Arthrogryposis that leaves her wheelchair bound, she lived independently on UNF’s campus taking full-time classes and working at the Disability Resource Center. She graduated in the spring of 2016 with a B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Community Leadership.

Gaver loves being involved in her community and helping others. Through her platform Wheellifeconnections, and her many social media channels, Gaver strongly advocates for access, inclusion, and disability rights. She served as Ms. Wheelchair Florida in 2015 and placed 2nd in Ms. Wheelchair America 2016. Sara was the first woman in a wheelchair to compete for Miss Florida USA 2020 and served as Miss Duval County USA in 2021. She has a passion for public speaking on topics of empowerment, motivation, mindset, and advocacy. Her current advocacy projects include: police sensitivity training, inclusive playgrounds, disability awareness in education, disability voting, and adaptive recreation.