Angela Madsen Loved Life (and her AT)

Thank you, Ability Tools (the California AT Program) for this wonderful interview with Angela Madsen (originally published a year ago). Madsen died last month pursuing her dream to cross the Pacific (from California to Hawaii) a journey she’d completed with a partner in 2014. Had she finished, she would have become the first rower with paraplegia, the first out gay athlete and the oldest woman (she was 60) to make this journey solo. In this interview, Angela shares her exhilarating life perspective and appreciation for the AT innovations that helped power her dreams. As noted by many, she died doing what she loved and welcomed the risk. Rest in peace, Angela Madsen.

Champion Athlete Angela Madsen shares her perspective.

It’s nearly impossible to encapsulate who Angela Madsen is in just a few words: She’s a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, an athlete who has earned multiple medals in multiple national and international sports, a Guinness World Record holder, the founder and director of a California adaptive rowing organization, a devoted spouse to her wife, and so much more.

We had the privilege of asking Angela about her life as an athlete, advocate, and veteran with a disability. Although her biography is chock-full of amazing accomplishments, she was very down-to-earth and candid about sharing her experiences with us.

What are your favorite assistive devices?

My favorite assistive device for daily living is my wheelchair. I spent years trying to get out of it and was diagnosed with adjustment disorder. I have no idea why they define not wanting to be in a wheelchair a disorder. At the time of my initial accident, I had been assigned to life in a wheelchair and got out of it, so I was sure I could do it again.

“ When I see people in wheelchairs, I no longer see people who can’t, I see people defying the definition of disability to live their lives. It is a vehicle necessary to get from point A to point B, but it also provides the freedom to not have to stay in one place. “

My perception of what the wheelchair was, at that time, was totally skewed. I thought it would mean I was disabled. This life has changed my definition of disability to be anyone who believes they cannot and never tries and that is not me. The wheelchair doesn’t disable me. My previous perception about disability could have very likely crippled me.


There are so many adaptive or assistive devices specifically designed for daily living and for our participation in sports. I don’t really have a favorite. I’ve designed fixed seats for boats and rowing machines. I’ve found inexpensive alternatives to grip assist gloves and there are others who continually develop and adapt things for just about anything we could possibly want or need to do.

Legendary. Angela set a Guinness World record when she rowed the Pacific Ocean (2,700 miles from California to Hawaii) as...