Celebrate Women’s Equality Day-First African American Woman Pilot With Disability

Have you ever had a dream of accomplishing something but because of life, you let it go?

Well here is a story about a woman who beats the odds.  It is a true motivator for others and a great story to share in the celebration of Women’s Equality Day on August 26th.

Leslie Irby flew her first airplane at age sixteen. Flying had been a passion of hers and the opportunity to pursue her dreams was introduced to her by an organization named Aviation Career Enrichment (ACE). ACE is a program that teaches young African-Americans all about aviation in hopes they will choose it as a career. Leslie was so good at her craft that she was selected to be a part of a summer program. But as we all know, life can change in the blink of an eye and that’s exactly what happened to Leslie; she was in a head-on collision which left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Leslie didn’t just sit around twittering her thumbs because of her new normal. She researched her options so she could get back on the horse and ride or in her case, the plane and fly. Leslie came across a program called Able Flight.  It just so happens, their mission is to teach people with disabilities how to fly planes.

Through the program’s training, with modifications, on June 1st, Leslie received her pilot’s license. To date, she’s the first African-American woman with a disability to ever do so.


Leslie’s story of success is just another example of what Women’s Equality Day is all about. If you think back, women were not able to vote until the nineteenth amendment, now we’re flying planes. We have come a long way baby and I still think our best is yet to come. Leslie is a motivator to me because she’s a part of the triple jeopardy.  What is triple jeopardy? Triple jeopardy is being a person with a disability, an African-American, and a woman.  Believe me; this can sometimes hinder us from succeeding.  Just seeing her achieve the dream she had, makes me want to keep reaching for my goals.

Did you know women have this undeniable strength that comes out of nowhere when things are not going right or there seems to be no hope?  It kicks in when you need it most. Life has thrown me some crazy passes in my forty-six years.  Just when it looks like I’m about to strike out, I make a play to first base or I am blessed with a home run; I have even walked a couple of times.

May all women continue to leave a path for other’s and strive to break down the barriers in hopes for better opportunities.

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