Iowa’s spokeswoman for people with disabilities is leaving this weekend for Michigan where she’ll represent Iowa in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant.
Pattie Duff is a mother of four in Des Moines and as the 2016 Ms. Wheelchair Iowa, she’ll be competing in the 45th annual national event next week in Grand Rapids.
“It’s going to be really exciting from the different things we’re going to do and it sounds like it’ll be really fun,” Duff says. “I’ll just be glad to experience a lot of different things that I haven’t already and to get to meet face-to-face a lot of the contestants I haven’t even talked to on Facebook and build that bond.”
The competition is not based on physical beauty but instead on a woman’s advocacy and accomplishments. Duff uses a wheelchair for mobility after a spinal cord injury about three years ago. In addition to her three biological children and a step-daughter, she also has a seven-month-old foster child. That foster-daughter is the basis of Duff’s pageant platform, reinforcing that people with disabilities -can- be foster parents.
“As long as you are physically able to take care of yourself and a child, then you are able to be a foster parent,” Duff says. “I just want more people that utilize wheelchairs to be able to become foster parents, if they would like to be.”
The 43-year-old Duff has degrees in psychology and human services and is working toward a new degree in special education. She works for Easter Seals of Iowa, a non-profit group that offers a range of services and camps for children and adults with disabilities.
“I help feed them, if they need help showering, if they need help dressing, if they need help with the arts and crafts, anything they need help with,” Duff says. “We help promote independence and we try to get them to do what they can for themselves, but if they can’t, then I help them.”
The new Ms. Wheelchair America will be crowned next Saturday night, August 13th, and she’ll represent the 56-million Americans living with disabilities.