A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Patriot Profile: Charlotte Woodward

By Anne Reynolds on June 21, 2022

Year: Senior

Major: Sociology with a concentration in inequality and social change

Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Charlotte Woodward holding an Alpha Kappa Delta certificate

Mason senior Charlotte Woodward is an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. Photo provided

George Mason University sociology student Charlotte Woodward has tire­lessly advocated for the rights of people with disabilities—and she is being recognized for her efforts. In December 2021, U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced federal legislation named for her: the Charlotte Woodward Organ Transplant Discrimination Prevention Act (S.3301), designed to prevent discrimination by health care providers against people with disabilities who need organ transplants.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: In their statement, the senators noted, “The bill is named after Charlotte Woodward, an advocate with Down syn­drome who received a heart transplant nine years ago and has fought to raise the issue of organ transplant discrimination in various states, includ­ing her home state of Virginia.”

FACING THE CHALLENGE: More than 25 states currently prohibit organ transplantation discrimination, but discrepancies exist across state laws, and delays in delivering relief to patients have made enforcement difficult. Woodward’s February 2020 testimony before the Virginia General Assem­bly was an important step in seeing state legislation passed—unani­mously—that prevents disability-based discrimination against people who need life-saving organ transplants.

QUEEN OF HEARTS: Born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart defect, Woodward underwent four surgeries as a child and received a heart transplant in 2012. She celebrated her 10-year “Heartiversy” in Janu­ary of this year. Since her lifesaving heart transplant, she has advocated for persons with disabilities to receive equal access to similar opportunities. “I’ve been an advocate my entire life, and I’m always looking for the oppor­tunity to help other people.”

NOW IT’S HER JOB: She works for the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), a human rights organization that supports and advocates for the Down syndrome community. As the community outreach associate, she has met with legislators, taken part in numerous advocacy events, served as editor in chief for an upcoming NDSS magazine, and has starred in sev­eral TikTok videos, one of which has had 4.4 million views.

ON A MISSION: In her advocacy for equal rights for the disabled commu­nity, Woodward is working on issues ranging from helping people with disabilities move into community employment settings to protection of federal benefits for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who wish to marry. “I want society to be aware of the lived experiences of people with disabilities, as well as the abilities that they bring to the world, even though they were born into a world that wasn’t made for them.”

WHAT SHE DOES FOR FUN: An enthusiastic baseball fan, Woodward enjoys following the Washington Nationals. She is learning how to play electric guitar and has participated in the Global Down Syndrome Founda­tion fashion show, Be Beautiful Be Yourself.

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