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Disabled Woman Lobbies Congress

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A disabled Wilson woman is lobbying Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration and Gov. Mike Easley on a quest to have every U.S. airport install a family assistance restroom.

A word of warning to officials at the unequipped airports — Tawana Williams usually achieves what she wants.

Despite being born without arms, Williams has learned to care for herself, built a successful public speaking career and raised a daughter.

"I was born to win — that's the only conceivable reason that God made me the way I am," she said Tuesday. "I am here to inspire and change lives of people all over this world.

"And I'll never quit because I am a fighter."

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield may take up her cause. His office is investigating her request, spokesman Ken Willis said Tuesday evening.

"It would be our hope that Congressman Butterfield could offer legislation when Congress returns in early September," Willis said.

Williams, 45, was born without arms, caused by her mother's use of Thalidomide, a one-time popular drug to combat morning sickness. It caused severe birth defects in thousands of children before it was banned in the early 1960s.

Yet, Williams has learned to do most tasks with her feet — write, draw, even type 35-40 words per minute. She overcame an addiction to crack cocaine that began in high school. She was able to care for her daughter, who is now an adult.

She has used her experiences as the basis for a book, "Unarmed But Dangerous," and a successful career as a motivational speaker. She typically has 15-20 appearances a month.

It was during one of those cross-country flights last month that Williams finally ran out of patience. She and her husband, Toby, were in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport on a layover. The airport’s only family restroom, which she needs because she requires assistance in the restroom, was in another concourse.

"I really needed to use it, but we didn't have time to go and come back," she said.

She was able to wait until she could board and then use the plane’s restroom. Although she is only 4 feet 5 1/2 inches tall, her husband is 6 feet 2 inches tall, making a plane stall a tight fit.

"Flight attendants are really nice about it, but those bathrooms are super small," she said.

Tired of the inconvenience, she decided then that she was going to fight to have the family restrooms required in all airports. She wrote a letter that she sent to every U.S. senator and representative, mostly via e-mail. She also sent it to the FAA and Easley’s office.

She has also alerted people on her e-mail lists.

"I’m a busy person, but if I don't take the time to do this, who will?" she said.

The larger restrooms do not only serve the disabled, she noted, but are also used by parents with small children, the elderly and others with caregivers.

"So I am not speaking out just for me. I am speaking for millions of Americans," she said. “We have paid for our tickets just like anyone else and we are entitled to use the restroom like anyone else.

"I am not doing this for the drama — I don't need the drama — I want to see results."

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