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Jessica Cox flies through life without fear

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All photos courtesy of Jessica Cox.

UA alumna, motivational speaker and focus of the upcoming documentary, “Right Footed,” Jessica Cox pilots an airplane using her feet.

Cox, born without arms due to a rare birth defect, doesn’t let her situation deter her from anything.

“[Flying a plane] was the ultimate feeling of freedom, independence and empowerment,” Cox said.

Her achievements are recognized through several awards, including the Inspiration Award for Women and a Guinness World Record.

“No matter what the challenge is, [Cox] keeps at it,” said Nick Spark, a UA alumnus and director of the documentary. “She has a fearlessness and belief in herself that is pretty remarkable because there are so many people that I’ve met in my lifetime who wouldn’t even consider learning to fly a plane, who are able-bodied people.”

“Right Footed” first premiered in June at the Mirabile Dictu Film Festival in Vatican City. Upcoming screenings will be held in several locations across the country, including the Portland Film Festival and the Napa Valley Film Festival. The documentary tells Cox’s personal story, tracking her journey toward success despite her disability.

After deciding to no longer use prosthetic arms at the age of 14, Cox uses her feet to perform everyday activities, including eating, typing and even driving a car without modifications.

“As a person with disability, often times independence doesn’t come very easy,” Cox said. “But when you do accomplish something that makes you more independent, there’s a certain amount of confidence and empowerment that comes from that.”

Cox has visited numerous countries around the world in attempt to raise awareness about rights of people with disabilities with the help of Handicap International, an organization that aims to improve quality of life for people with disabilities and those living in disaster-stricken or impoverished areas around the world.

Mica Bevington, the director of marketing and communications for Handicap International, explained that Cox helped shed light on the subject of disability in different regions of the world by taking part in various events run by the organization, such as the Ethiopia inclusive education project.

During her time there, Cox spoke to children and their communities about redefining social stigmas often assigned to people with disabilities.

“Having a figure like Jessica come and speak when she was visiting these schools really showed them what is possible when you give a child the chance to learn,” Bevington said.

The 32-year-old motivational speaker, a supporter of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, noted that she realized the profound impact that the Americans with Disabilities Act had upon her life after hearing stories about the adversities that many people with disabilities face in other countries.

In 2012, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the UNCRPD, modeled after the ADA. The treaty aims to ensure the rights of those with disabilities on a global scale by promoting equality and non-discrimination.

With the hope that the treaty might be ratified in this year’s Congress, Cox has lobbied for the treaty by speaking with senators on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Jeff Flake.

However, as the author of an upcoming book titled “Disarm Your Limits,” Cox’s message expands to anyone struggling with adversity.

“Don’t give up,” she said. “Know that your very challenge can develop a certain strength over time.”


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