Deborah Ross, 60, recently traded in being a teacher for being an artist. Now instead of cajoling fifth graders to stay in their seats, please, the T12 para from Yorktown, Va., showcases her portraits at local galleries.

How’d you join the crip club?
In 2003 my husband of 34 years shot me twice and then turned the gun on himself and died immediately. Thanks to three nurses who showed up (it happened in a parking lot), I was rushed to a hospital and into surgery twice that night. Luckily I lived, although everyone thought I wouldn’t make it.

How has your disability shaped you?
Right before I was shot I had gotten national board status — the highest honor a teacher can earn. When I realized I wouldn’t be able to go back to work, I volunteered at the school, and then taught part-time for five years. But this year I decided that’s not me anymore, I just want to be an artist now. I’ve ch