Ms. Wheelchair America Crown Goes To Pasadena Woman
PASADENA, MD - A Pasadena woman was named Ms. Wheelchair America 2024 on Saturday. The honor is not a pageant title, but instead a leadership honor for women with physical disabilities.
The winner, Chandra Smith, was lauded for her advocacy for digital accessibility.
"Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve you all. I'm incredibly honored," Smith said, according to FOX 17. "I am truly speechless, but I'm truly inspired by the ladies who sit behind me. And, this crown represents the resilience, determination and the spirit of the ladies...and I share this crown with them."
Smith posts weekly Facebook tips for how to make the online world more accessible for people with disabilities. She said font and background colors should have plenty of contrast so people with visual disabilities can read them. She also suggested using fonts like Verdana that are easier to read for those with dyslexia.
Smith earned a master's degree from the University of Maryland in information systems and engineering. She's now an IT engineer and a compliance specialist for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Smith volunteers frequently for holiday and food drives. She also enjoys playing video games, writing and catching up on pop culture.
WBAL reported that Smith had three amputations, a coma and a stroke after she fasted while her mother battled sarcoidosis, a lung disease, in 2021. Smith's mother died in 2022, WBAL said.
"I did a seven-day water-only fast. I was only drinking water, no food. On the seventh day, I passed out and had multi-organ failure. I was flown to a hospital. In order to save my life, I was given medication that took blood from my extremities to save my vital organs, creating sepsis," the 36-year-old Smith told WBAL.
Smith now plans to use her platform for advocacy.
"Our strength lies not in our physical abilities, but in the resilience of our spirits," Smith said Monday on Facebook. "To my Wheel sisters, remember, we are not defined by our wheelchairs, but by the courage in our hearts and the determination in our souls. Let's continue to break barriers, inspire change, and redefine beauty."
Michigan's Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, located in Grand Rapids, hosted the Ms. Wheelchair America ceremony. The full livestream is posted here. Smith was declared the winner about an hour and 35 minutes into the telecast.
More information on the annual competition is posted at mswheelchairamerica.org.
To keep up with Smith's journey, follow her on Facebook.
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