In 1991 I was crowned Handicapped Woman of Iowa. I competed with women who had all sorts of disabilities: blind, deaf, women using walkers, and wheelchairs.
When I first heard about the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant I was intrigued and called for more information. So in 1996 I went to Warm Springs, GA and represented Iowa in the national pageant. When I came back to Iowa, I started the Ms. Wheelchair Iowa Program. As Iowa did not have a program just for women in wheelchairs. So you will find me leaning toward making the pageant just for women who use a wheelchair for their daily mobility.
I have been on the Board of Directors for the Ms.
Wheelchair America Pageant for 7 years, and during that time scooters were gradually eased into the wheelchair category. My personal thoughts are, it is a wheelchair pageant, and we should only have contestants that use wheelchairs for their main source of mobility. Granted many people who use wheelchairs, can stand, and some can take a few steps. But usually only for transferring purposes.
The Wisconsin story has really been blown out of proportion. Ms. Lee was removed as the titleholder because she does not meet the requirements for participation and to hold the title of Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin.
Ms. Lee does not use her scooter at work (as a school teacher) nor does she use it all the time in the community, therefore, she violates a direct and specific article of the rules of the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant, that all state pageant’s must follow.
Also, Ms. Lee signed a contract with the Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin board that states: “I understand and agree that at no time while I am appearing as MWW, will I appear not in my wheelchair.” And the Wisconsin board felt the newspaper article about her new title, with the picture of her standing in her classroom, was a violation of that agreement.
This program is for women of achievement and accomplishments who use wheelchairs or scooters as their primary mobility aid in their community, at work, and for the betterment of their quality of life.
The Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant is a great program for women who use wheelchairs, it’s a wonderful opportunity to show the world what we have to offer. Our titleholders are out there making appearances, visiting schools, and making the public aware of architectural and attitudinal barriers. This pageant has been around for 33 years, and we have no plans to stop now.
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