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April 02, 2005

Saturday morning outrage: Ms. Wheelchair stripped of title when she's seen briefly standing.

That decisive act raised the question "How handicapped is handicapped enough?" The "winner", Janeal Lee, has Muscular Dystrophy.


When Janeal Lee was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin in January, she envisioned her role as an advocate for people with disabilities as an extension of the classroom.

A steering committee led by Gina Hackel of Freedom, a former Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin and pageant state coordinator, is stripping Lee of her crown. It said she was photographed in The Post-Crescent’s Heart of the Valley supplement, The Current, standing in her classroom, adding that she does not always use her scooter and that she walks in her classroom.

They (candidates) have to “mostly be seen in public using their wheel chairs or scooters,” said Judy Hoit, Ms. Wheelchair America board of directors treasurer, supporting the move. “Otherwise, you’ve got women who are in their wheelchairs all the time and they get offended if they see someone standing up. We can’t have title holders out there walking when they’re seen in the public.”

Lee disagrees with the assessment.

“The way they see it, you’re either 100 percent disabled or 0 percent disabled, when in reality everyone is somewhere in between. It gives us a narrow view of who a person with a disability is,” she said Thursday. “I’ve been made to feel as if I can’t represent the disabled citizens of Wisconsin because I’m not disabled enough.”

“It was a very difficult day,” Lee said. “My students are very shocked. They said they don’t understand. I told them there are things I don’t even understand.”

“That’s the image we want to portray of disabled people?” said Lee, noting the lift in her van, the ramp and adaptive equipment in her home, right down to the lightweight dishes in her kitchen.

“Yes, I am disabled. And I’m being asked to compromise or validate my disability?”

Here's the full story, if you're in the mood to be further enraged. It also includes phone numbers and addresses if you would like to comment.

If it can happen in Wisconsin, it could happen in America.

Posted by Dan at April 2, 2005 07:50 AM

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