WATERLOO — A new advocate for Iowans with disabilities will be chosen next weekend in Waterloo.
The Ms. Wheelchair Iowa Contest is scheduled for March 7th and contestants are still welcome to apply and compete for the crown. Jenn Wolff, of Waverly, is a former titleholder and is one of this year’s event organizers. She says you need to be a U.S. citizen who’s at least 21 and have lived in Iowa at least six months.
“We are looking for women who use wheelchairs 100% of the time for mobility,” Wolff says. “We’re hoping that they want to educate the general public, advocate for others with disabilities. We’re really hoping to build this competition into a stronger community of women with disabilities.” Wolff says the winner will be picked based on her accomplishments since the onset of the disability.
She notes it’s not a beauty pageant so there’s no swimsuit competition and contestants don’t need to perform some sort of talent.
Wolff says, “It is really more focused on building education and empowerment and advocacy, in building a person’s confidence, public speaking ability, and civic engagement.”
The winner’s duties will revolve around her platform and her ability to travel — which may take her from local parades, churches, civic groups and schools to the state capitol, the governor’s office and beyond. Wolff, who was Ms. Wheelchair Iowa 2011, says being the titleholder had a profound impact on her life — for the better.
“There is power in the tiara! It gets you into rooms that you might not be able to otherwise get into to speak,” Wolff says. “It really, really helped my confidence and ability to public speak. Going to nationals is unlike anything else because you’re in a room full of women in wheelchairs and you will never, ever get that experience anywhere else. It was amazing.”
The Iowa winner will represent the state at the Ms. Wheelchair America event, scheduled for August in Little Rock, Arkansas. To apply for the state contest, search for “Ms. Wheelchair Iowa Contest 2020” on Facebook and scroll down to find a link to the application.