HomeDisabilityMs. Wheelchair America Crowns 2023 Winner and Celebrates 50 Years of Advocacy

Ms. Wheelchair America Crowns 2023 Winner and Celebrates 50 Years of Advocacy

Ladies representing 21 states competed within the Miss Wheelchair America competitors Aug. 15-21 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Picture by Melissa Roman.

Twenty-one girls anxiously arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the week of August 15 to compete for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2023. However don’t be fooled by their sashes: The MWA competitors will not be a magnificence pageant. 

It’s as a substitute a contest to acknowledge advocacy, achievement and management. MWA seeks to pick out one of the best spokesperson to dispel stereotypes, promote inclusion and champion change so folks with disabilities can reside totally. Though various in age, ethnicity, occupation and sort of incapacity, the rivals are united by a sisterhood and bond that comes from their shared expertise of navigating the world in a wheelchair.

Ms. Wheelchair America 2023

blond woman using power wheelchair wearing sash and crown and holding flowers, smiling at camera.
Ali Ingersoll of North Carolina was topped Ms. Wheelchair America 2023, and plans to make use of her platform to advocate for bettering medical insurance protection.

Earlier than she could possibly be topped Ms. Wheelchair America 2023, Ali Ingersoll needed to be satisfied to run for Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina, as a result of she thought it was a magnificence pageant. When Ingersoll, 39, discovered the competitors was actually about advocacy, she was swayed to enter. 

She leaned on her wealth of expertise as an entrepreneur, incapacity advocate, accessibility advisor, day dealer and extra to win the state-level qualifier and took house the nationwide crown Aug. 21 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I actually wasn’t nervous through the nationwide MWA competitors as a result of I knew whether or not I gained or not, I used to be going to return to this lovely full life I’ve and proceed my advocacy work,” she says. The very best a part of the expertise was assembly the opposite titleholders and forming new friendships, particularly with others like her who’re enthusiastic about advocacy.

Ingersoll began her advocacy mission after being repeatedly denied medically obligatory gear by insurance coverage firms when she grew to become a quadriplegic in 2010. After spending numerous hours negotiating the difficult course of and in the end profitable her battles, she partnered with SPINALpedia to create a step-by-step “Affected person-to Affected person Information on The right way to Navigate the Well being Insurance coverage Attraction System.” Drawing on her personal experiences, the information gives ideas and tips for making the strongest argument for the gear, service or prescription you are attempting to get authorized. She additionally wrote in regards to the course of in New Mobility.

Throughout her reign as Ms. Wheelchair America, she hopes to proceed her medical insurance advocacy platform on a bigger scale and assist folks be taught to self-advocate. “At my core, I’m an individual with a incapacity who believes in paying it ahead, human kindness and advancing inclusiveness for all,” she says.

A Historic Legacy

black and white photo of five women, all using wheelchair and wearing sashes sitting in line.
Contestants on the 1978 Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. For the previous 50 years, MWA has given girls with disabilities a possibility to enact significant change in society.

This yr MWA celebrates 50 years of advocacy. MWA was based in 1972 by Dr. Philip Ok. Wooden in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Wooden, a common practitioner, was concerned in a automotive accident during which he sustained life threatening accidents. In accordance with Katherine Wooden — one among Dr. Wooden’s 4 kids — the challenges he confronted because of that accident, together with the lengthy restoration course of, motivated him to return to medical faculty and develop into a bodily medication and rehabilitation doctor. That manner he may assist others recovering from traumatic accidents. Dr. Wooden envisioned MWA as a platform for girls who used wheelchairs to showcase their tales, skills and capabilities. 

In 1972, Patricia Nevin of Michigan was the primary girl to be topped Ms. Wheelchair America. Nevin was a university scholar on the time and energetic in wheelchair sports activities. Through the previous 50 years, the ladies who’ve been state and nationwide title holders embrace medical professionals, elected officers, legal professionals, CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors and athletes.

Advocacy is on the coronary heart of MWA’s mission, and every girl chooses a platform that’s private to her. One of many oldest residing MWA titleholders is 1975 winner Diana Kenderian. Now 72, Kenderian has devoted her life to combating for equal entry to schooling. Born with cerebral palsy lengthy earlier than the Individuals with Disabilities Act, she needed to combat for each alternative to be seen and heard.

black and white photo of woman wheelchair user having crown placed on her head.
Ms. Wheelchair America 1975, Diana Kenderian, needed to combat onerous for her schooling within the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

“I used to be bused three hours a day to a particular faculty as a result of the native elementary faculty wouldn’t settle for me. Later, once I bought to highschool, the janitorial workers needed to carry me upstairs to get to class,” she says.

Entry didn’t enhance by the point she enrolled at Boston College. She needed to combat for curb cuts and ramps. In 1975, she grew to become the primary girl utilizing a wheelchair to graduate from the college’s College of Social Work.

After graduating she wished to develop into extra educated in regards to the legislation, so she may assist advocate for herself and others with disabilities. She went to Rutgers Legislation College and graduated with a legislation diploma in 1978. “Having a platform gave me a possibility to not solely make the world extra bodily accessible, but in addition socially acceptable,” she says.

Kathy Garcia-Farnsworth, Ms. Wheelchair Utah, and MWA 1990, used her platform to assist foyer for the congressional passage of the ADA. She was on the White Home garden to look at President George H. W. Bush signal the legislation into impact on July 26, 1990.

Dr. Alette Coble-Temple, of California, was topped MWA 2016. Throughout her reign, she traveled to 41 states and three international locations selling public acceptance and advancing insurance policies to assist men and women with disabilities notice their dream of getting a household. 

Extra Than a Competitors

For a lot of girls who take part in MWA, the expertise is life altering whether or not or not they win the title.

In 1990, I used to be topped Ms. Wheelchair Michigan and, in 1991, I used to be first-runner-up. It was a serious turning level in my life. I used to be very younger, nonetheless looking for my identification after my spinal wire harm and in search of friendship with those that understood my challenges. I had by no means met one other wheelchair consumer up till that time, and the completed girls from all walks of life who had been a part of my MWA expertise confirmed me there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish in life. They helped me develop into fearless and showcase my skills. 

I actually consider I might not be working within the public relations discipline as we speak, nor would I’ve develop into a four-time Paralympic medalist in swimming and a motivational speaker, had it not been for the MWA program.

My expertise will not be distinctive. Shelly Free, MWA president and Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2007, says watching the optimistic transformation MWA has on the ladies concerned and serving to them discover their voice retains her concerned in MWA. 

Throughout MWA’s historical past, there have been representatives from 48 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. To this point, there have been over 1,000 state titleholders who’ve helped facilitate optimistic adjustments of their communities and display that folks with disabilities can lead productive and significant lives.

“I feel one of many causes MWA has endured for 50 years is it adjustments girls’s lives, they usually discover they’re a part of a sisterhood that didn’t exist,” says Free. “12 months after yr you might be bringing in new sisters, and also you see the optimistic ripple impact and the impression their advocacy makes. Simply think about how far more we’ll be capable to accomplish within the subsequent 50 years.” 

Be taught extra about MWA at mswheelchairamerica.org



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