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Ms. Wheelchair Florida contestants get glamorous for advocacy

Lisa Jackson raised a hand-held mirror to her face as the flash from a friend's camera fired.

"Is that me?" she asked. "Wow, that is beautiful."

She turned to Fabiola Peck, who had just fixed up her hair.

"Thank you."

On Saturday night, Jackson and eight other women donned dresses and corsages for the Ms. Wheelchair Florida pageant. Since 1972, Ms. Wheelchair America has held annual pageants across the country to recognize the talents of women in wheelchairs and to raise awareness.

The contestants' experiences and ages range. Some, like Jackson, 45 and living in Pensacola, are independent and married with children. Diabetes led to the amputation of Jackson's legs. She's completely blind in her left eye and partially blind in her right.

Some contestants live in group homes, such as 27-year-old Ashley Applequist, of Bradenton. Spina bifida has kept her in a wheelchair.

But in a crowded ballroom at the Hilton Carillon Park, the women came together on a stage to tell four judges how they would advocate for people like themselves. A few cried. Others expressed anger at a world that is not always designed for their needs.

A hotel did not have a room that could accommodate a wheelchair.

A teacher did not consider a student's blindness.

"I think if you have a beautiful soul, it makes all the difference," said Jackson, who was first runner-up and Ms. Congeniality.

"You mean you would prefer to have your legs? Apparently that wasn't my path. So I don't look at it as a burden. I look at it as a blessing because I am still here."

Ms. Wheelchair Florida contestants get glamorous for advocacy 04/10/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 10:28pm]
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