Paris

Regional Pageant Winner Wants to Make Wheelchair Users More Visible

Kenda Felker is the reigning Ms. Wheelchair Southwestern USA

NBCUniversal, Inc.

When Kenda Felker of Paris, Texas entered the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant, she had a mission.

"I hate the word disability," Felker said. "A lot of times people with modified abilities -- or I say 'handiCAPABLE' people -- a lot of times we're overlooked."

It's hard to overlook a woman wearing a crown.

Felker won the Ms. Wheelchair Southwestern USA title last month. Her platform is "Handicapable: Where There's a Wheel, There's a Way."

"A lot of times here in this chair, you don't feel beautiful," Felker said. "But when you've got a crown, honey, you feel beautiful!"

Felker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 15 years old. Twelve years ago, MS took her ability to walk. She's in a wheelchair, but that hasn't stopped Felker from coaching her daughters' sports teams, or teaching middle school students.

"I just want to do what everybody else does," Felker said. "I know I can do it. Maybe not the same way you can, but I know I can do it."

She's used her platform to draw attention to issues, like a lack of "handicapable" parking in her town.

"If you or someone you know is not 'handicapable,' a lot of times you just don't think about those things," Felker said. "It's a 'see me,' you know? Don't just dismiss because I can't walk."

Felker will be one of 20 women to compete in the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant in Ohio in July. Events include personal interviews, evening gown, and on-stage speeches.

The pageant started as a state competition in Ohio. This is the 15th year for the national pageant. The pageant coordinator said they were limiting competitors this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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