I wore a sparkly crown and traveled the country. My crown was not a symbol of beauty or riches, but of my dedication to advocating for people with disabilities. If that piques your curiosity, you're not the only one. Drawing people in is the purpose of the crown. I wore it because I won Ms. Wheelchair America
When you hear “Ms. Wheelchair America," I'm sure the first thing that comes to mind is that it must be a beauty contest for women who use wheelchairs. Nothing could be further from the truth! In 1972 Dr. Phillip K. Woods, an Ohio physician, created an organization that highlighted the talent, determination, intelligence and courage of women who use wheelchairs for mobility. While other pageant competitions saw great popularity, he borrowed format as a way to increase awareness about issues impacting people with disabilities, specifically women.
His creation of an advocacy-based competition has given women a platform to share their message about the need for equal opportunity for people with disabilities. I have been educating people about the importance of standing for over thirty years, but until I had a shiny crown on my head, nobody listened! Dr. Woods knew the magic the crown held and what it could do to propel the issues impacting people with disabilities into the spotlight of the media and government officials. Hundreds of participants in the program have grown to become influential advocates using this platform over the years.
Beginning of my Reign
My reign began in Grand Rapids, Mich., in August of 2018. It was an absolute shock to hear my name called as the winner. I competed against 25 other female wheelchairs users from all over the country, each with a history of advocacy, and each with a unique platform. While I took home the crown, it was the friendships I made during the week of competition that I value most. We continue to keep in touch and support each other’s advocacy efforts, and the Ms. Wheelchair America program.
As Ms. Wheelchair America 2019, I traveled to 25 States and attended more than 70 events during my reign, speaking with people across the country about my platform – Stand for Life. My goal was to advocate for the coverage of standing technology that helps people with disabilities live healthier lives. I have always used standing devices and electrical stimulation to stay healthy, and I believe they should be covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.
Along the way I also has the opportunity to try new things as I met with others about their passions to live their own life possible. I tried adaptive snow skiing, sled hockey and adaptive water skiing, which were all a blast! I also exhibited at Abilities Expos
across the country, meeting met hundreds of amazing adults and children with disabilities. At the events I could often be found wearing my crown in the Numotion booth as I demonstrated the TEK RMD
and talked with others about the health benefits that result from standing.
But perhaps the most fun was putting my crown on the heads of many little princesses during the year, and I loved every minute!
Passing on the Crown
As my reign came to an end this month, I had the pleasure of crowning Ms. Wheelchair America 2020
, Hilary Muehlberger. A competitive wheelchair tennis player, she believes adaptive sports is a way to bring the disabled community together for positive change. She has experienced the positive impact adaptive sport has had on her life, and her goal is to make the same opportunities available to more people who use a wheelchair for mobility. You can follow her journey this year on Facebook
. She is already off to a fantastic start!
I am so very proud to have been a part of an organization dedicated to raising the voices of women with disabilities. If you are interested in becoming involved with Ms. Wheelchair America or want information on becoming an independent delegate, go to www.MsWheelchairAmerica.org. Ms. Wheelchair America is a non-profit organization, and none of the volunteers are paid for their time.