The Ms. Wheelchair America 2017 title was awarded to Eliza McIntosh Stauffer, who will be traveling the country in order to empower and act as spokeswoman for people with disabilities.
Among other participants, the reigning Ms. Wheelchair Illinois Shannon Webster had set her eyes on the coveted title. Although she was not named Ms. Wheelchair America 2017, her speech centering on the significance of employment for individuals with disabilities won her an award at the recently concluded national pageant.
The 25-year-old Naperville-based woman delivered the best statement of belief in a group of 25 competitors at the pageant, judges announced at the show that took place in Pennsylvania earlier this month.
"I was overjoyed to win the best speech award because it validated my purpose to be a voice for those with all levels of abilities," Webster said.
Undeterred by the fact that she has cerebral palsy, Webster instills the idea among individuals with disabilities that they are certainly capable of achieving the careers they want and at the same time promote the belief among employers that making accommodations for individuals with cognitive or physical challenges is not difficult.
Webster's passions were clearly conveyed during the two-minute speech which she learned by heart and delivered on August 18. She appreciated the belief that motivated her peers who were doing their best to win this year's Ms. Wheelchair America title as well.
"It was so empowering to meet 24 other women passionate about disability advocacy across the country," she said.
While she wasn't elevated from her state's wheelchair queen for this year to become the national queen, Webster said she will not deviate her focus from disability advocacy, further inspired by her participation in the national event.
"It was the most rewarding and humbling experience of my life, thus far," she added.
Continuing her advocacy on the job as Exelon's corporate recruiter, Webster conducts training sessions that revolve around interviewing candidates with disabilities and proves she is quite capable of making the 90-minute travel to work by taxi, train and car thrice a week, while working from home the other couple of days.
She promulgates her message in the form of talks, by posting on social media and catching up with institutions such as adaptive physical education classes at Naperville Central High School, where she graduated from. Aside from that, she meets up with members of the city's accessible community task force.
Webster is gearing up to hand out her crown and sash during the conclusion of next year's Ms. Wheelchair Illinois, which is slated to take place in Oak Brook in October. (Image Credit: MUTVNews99/YouTube)