Last week Eliza McIntosh was officially crowned as Ms. Wheelchair America for 2017. The pageant was founded in 1972 by a Columbus, OH physician Dr. Philip K. Wood. He created the non-profit organization to help promote the achievements of the wheelchair community and to help make America more accessible. Today the pageant is headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI and typically has competitors from about 30 states.
The pageant lasts six days and during that time contestants attend workshops, are each personally interviewed, and get to participate in fun evening activities. The pageant is designed to promote the building of friendships and bonds while allowing the judges to observe the contestants. On Friday night all of the girls gave their speeches then on Saturday, Eliza was crowned champion! The main message of her speech was “Where There’s a Wheel, There’s a Way”.
Eliza McIntosh was born with spinal dysgenesis and doctors told her family that her entire life would be spent on bed rest. They were mistaken and from a young age Eliza participated in adaptive sports. She credits her “Junior Jazz” wheelchair basketball coach as a huge part of her success and even went on to become an alternate for the US Paralympic basketball team. Another interesting fact is that she owns the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous wheelie in a wheelchair that lasted 3 hours and 51 minutes!
Today Eliza is Political Science Major at the University of Utah, where she is extremely engaged in state and local politics. This past April she was a GOP delegate at Utah’s state convention, where a bit of controversy was sparked. The Utah state chairman called for a “standing vote” which left McIntosh and several other delegates furious and offended. She responded by staging a protest in Salt Lake City which gained national media attention.
When Eliza officially takes on the title of Ms. Wheelchair America in 2017 she will be very busy. Her duties will include traveling across America to speak on behalf of the organization as well as the entire wheelchair community. She will also be actively participating in fundraising events and writing a monthly newsletter.
Congratulations to all of the pageant contestants, and thank you for being an active voice for the wheelchair community!