A Year as Ms. Wheelchair America – Eliza McIntosh Stauffer
A little over a year ago Eliza McIntosh was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2017. Since that time, she has gotten married, visited 21 states and two countries to advocate on behalf of the wheelchair community, and will be graduating this spring with a degree in Political Science from the University of Utah!
Eliza was surprised when her name was announced as winner of Ms. Wheelchair America 2017, because she knew there were so many other deserving contestants. As the second youngest winner since the pageant was founded, she ran into a challenge by winning. She was still enrolled at college and due to her scholarships restrictions had to remain in school. Fortunately, The University of Utah deemed Eliza’s new role as an internship so she was able to remain a student.
One of the biggest challenges facing Eliza was that all of her Ms. Wheelchair appearances were self-funded. She got creative and kept costs low by researching inexpensive flights with the help of her friend, Ms. Wheelchair Washington, who happened to be an employee at Alaskan Airlines. Eliza was also helped by generous individuals who opened up their home for her to stay while she was travelling. At many of her appearances she gave speeches and had the opportunity to meet followers and supporters of the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. Her message to the wheelchair community was to get involved and use your strengths to start seeing more changes.
“Finding the confidence to understand you are the expert in the room and then acting on it can be difficult”. Eliza stated, “People are unaware of all aspects of the ADA so they look to you with a sense of trust”. A key talking point for Eliza on at every appearance was that we are on the cusp of changing how disabilities are viewed on this country. The baby boomer generation is aging and we are getting to the point where everybody knows someone who needs help with accessibility.
Today, Eliza is back in class and is ready to graduate so that she can enter the workforce and begin a career of making changes. Through this experience Eliza has gained a sisterhood of advocates and claims it has taught her how to speak up and show up!
Meeting new people and discussing ideas is very important to Eliza. If you would like to get in touch, she can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org