Iowa will soon have a new spokeswoman for people with disabilities as the deadline is approaching for candidates to enter the annual Ms. Wheelchair Iowa competition. Judy Hoit, of Iowa City, is the state coordinator for the non-profit program.

“We need a woman who uses a wheelchair for 100% of her mobility and it can be either a wheelchair or a scooter,” Hoit says. “She must be between 21 and 60 and a U.S. citizen.” Hoit is a polio survivor and was Iowa’s first Ms. Wheelchair titleholder in 1996. She says the person who’s crowned next month will need to be able to travel.

Hoit says, “The new titleholder of Ms. Wheelchair Iowa would travel the state and make appearances, speak to civic groups, schools, attend parades, make appearances with her sash and crown on and be a spokesperson for people with disabilities.” Hoit says it’s not a beauty pageant, as the women are judged more on their attitude and enthusiasm, not their appearance.

Contestants are also judged on their achievements and accomplishments since the onset of their disability. Hoit says it’s an important, visible role that showcases the abilities of people with disabilities. “Everybody needs to know the people with disabilities are out there doing things, working, being homemakers, wives, mothers, all of the above,” Hoit says.

“I’m not going to say it’s an inspiration but it just lets people know that we’re out there, we’re well and alive.” The state pageant is in Iowa City on March 27th. The winner of the state event will go on to represent Iowa at the national pageant this summer. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Hoit at (319) 351-8375. For details on the national program, visit “www.mswheelchairamerica.org“.