As a bilateral amputee, Vaughn DeBarr could choose to focus on the many things she cannot do any more, but if you know her, you know that there’s nothing that can stop her. Whether she’s powerlifting, running her catering business or championing the rights of people with disabilities, DeBarr approaches life with zest, positivity and a continual drive to achieve more.
It all started with a dog bite when Vaughan DeBarr was just 7 years old.
DeBarr is open about the struggles she faced. When she was a young girl, she was attacked by a dog, which damaged the growth plates in her left leg. Despite over 25 major surgeries from youth until she was 40, she became a below-the-knee amputee in 2013.
During recovery, DeBarr lost over 130 pounds through powerlifting and Zumba, but again, she encountered another obstacle. The vascular damage returned, requiring further amputation of her left leg in 2017, and it spread to her right leg, ultimately culminating in a bilateral above the knee amputation in June 2019. Did that stop her?
“Fitness is a big part of my life,” she said, and despite no longer having the use of either leg, she continued to compete in strongman competitions and exercise with assistive devices.
At this point, one cannot help but imagine that nothing else could happen to DeBarr. She’s an absolute inspiration in her ability to bounce back, but later in December 2019, she suffered a stroke that left her a paraplegic.
“I have microprocessors in my prosthetic, but I am able to walk with the assistance of my prosthetics and a walker,” she said.
She and two other amputee friends started a consulting company, Disability Access Services, where they coach business owners to really make sure patrons can easily and independently navigate their establishments.
Her newest venture is called Ability Eats, a catering company in Apollo Beach that will prepare family-style tray food. She wants to hire primarily people with special needs and people with disabilities.
“When Ability Eats opens, and I’m able to hire, my goal is to reach out to the community. We’re handi-capable. You are capable of doing everything that nondisabled persons do, just differently,” said DeBarr.
Once she launches the storefront, she has a food truck in the works called Wheelz and Mealz. All of these ideas grow from her desire to champion the needs of people with disabilities, both mental and physical.
She said, “A lot of people don’t know that the statistics surrounding people with disabilities has increased 30 percent. There are more people having amputations for diabetes and more people diagnosed with cerebral palsy or autism, for example.”
She wants these people to always have a purpose and a place in society, and the goal is to eventually become a nonprofit so they can fund scholarships for students with special needs to pursue their future goals.
For more information on Disability Access Services, visit facebook.