Ali Stroker has become the first wheelchair user to be nominated for and win a Tony Award. She won the best featured actress for her role as Ado Annie in the Oklahoma! Broadway play.
Stroker, who lost her legs in a car accident when she was two years old, says the win was for every kid with a "disability, a limitation, or a challenge who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena."
At the awards, a ramp had not been built to the stage so Stroker had to enter from the wings rather than the audience with her fellow castmates. She says the Broadway theatres are generally accessible to audience members with disabilities, but the backstage areas are not.
"I would ask theatre owners and producers to really look into how they can begin to make the backstage accessible so that performers with disabilities can get around," she said.
Stroker became the first actor in a wheelchair in Broadway history when she played Anna in a revival of the musical Spring Awakening in 2015. Traditionally, disabled characters have been played by able-bodied actors. Stroker's Tony win marks a step forward in representing disabled persons within the arts.
Stroker received the Tony to a standing ovation. In her speech, she commented upon the lack of disabled role models on stage when she was growing up.
"I know exactly what it's like to be looking for someone who looks like me, " Stroker said. "It makes me feel amazing to be able to be that for them because I didn't have that as an 11-year-old girl pursuing this dream."