This year’s Master of Ceremonies for the 2018 Ms. Wheelchair America pageant, Jennifer Kumiyama, has now added another accomplishment to her impressive list of advocacy work. Jennifer was born with Arthrogryposis, and as the oldest of six children, discovered her love for music and theater at a young age. She used her passion and talents to become the first ever actress in a wheelchair to perform on a Walt Disney World stage.
When Jennifer was 10 years old, her parents moved to a different school district in the same year the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. She remembers meeting with the school secretary who asked her if she wanted to continue in special education or join “mainstream classes” since her new building would be more accessible. Jennifer chose to join the mainstream classes, and from that day forward, she set out to make the world more accessible for everyone.
In 2009, Kumiyama competed in her first Ms. Wheelchair California competition. The following year, she was crowned as the state representative and the first runner-up for 2010 Ms. Wheelchair America. Following the 2010 competition, Jennifer was named as a Ms. Wheelchair America board member and was later appointed vice president of the organization. After taking a few years away from the competition to focus on her new job, she returned this year to be the host of ceremonies.
Jennifer now works as a government official in Long Beach, CA where she continues her advocacy work. She is currently a liaison between city officials and the community, developing innovative adaptive solutions.
“Inclusion is more than accessibility, and we need to think of new construction moving forward from a universal perspective,” Kumiyama said. “Technology is a huge driver of independence and we need to utilize it to make rapid advancements for accessibility.”
In the future, Jennifer plans to continue to take on new challenges and enjoy her love for music and the arts. For more information, videos of Jennifer performing, or to get in touch with her; please visit www.jenniferkumiyama.org