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ticipate,” Kriener recalls. “I still wasn’t sure; so I asked an eighth grade student in the room: ‘Do you think I should be in a wheelchair competition?’ Knowing this student, I knew her answer would be yes; and she instantly lit up like a light bulb, telling everyone who came in the door, ‘Ms. Kriener is going to be in a wheelchair pageant.’ I knew I couldn’t let her down --I try to never let students or children down.”
As Ms. Wheelchair Iowa, Kriener says, “I will go around to organizations and events to promote and advocate for my platform, which is accessible playgrounds. I would like to see more playgrounds in Iowa that have better access for all to play together on the same equipment.”
At first, she says, she didn’t appreciate the significance of winning the Ms. Wheelchair Iowa competition.
“I was like, ‘yeah I did it; no big deal.’ But now that I have put myself out there and have gone around to classrooms and talked to schools about what I am advocating for, I am excited to go out and make a difference for the children and Iowa,” she says. “I am going to give it my best. I am honored and blessed to be representing people with disabilities, and the great state of Iowa.”
Organized in 1972 by Columbus, Ohio physician Dr. Philip Wood, Ms. Wheelchair America recognizes the accomplishments of women who utilize wheelchairs for mobility.
According to its website, the mission of Ms. Wheelchair America is “to provide an opportunity of achievement for women who happen to be wheelchair users to successfully educate and advocate for the more than 64 million Americans living with disabilities.”
Ms. Wheelchair America is not a traditional beauty pageant. It is, instead, a competition to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities. “The selected representative must be able to communicate both the needs and the accomplishments of her constituency to the general public, the business community and the legislature” (mswheelchairamerica.org).
Despite an already-packed work and volunteer schedule, Kriener does find time to enjoy her hobbies –horseback riding (her favorite), country music concerts, camping, fishing and hunting. She also she is enjoying fulfilling her duties as Ms. Wheelchair Iowa.
“If you know of an event or organization that you would like me to talk to, please let me know and I would be more than happy to do so,” Kriener says.
Anyone interested in contacting Kriener for a speaking engagement or in sponsoring her road to Ms. Wheelchair America can follow her on Twitter:@ Ms_WheelchairIA; Instagram: Ms_WheelchairIA; and Facebook at facebook.com/ms.wheelchairiowa1.
Because of COVID-19, Kriener will compete against 38 other contestants Aug. 9-13, 2021, in Michigan, in the Ms. Wheelchair America competition –instead of Aug. 17-21 this year, as originally scheduled, in Arkansas.
See next week’s Decorah Newspapers for photos and more information about Heidi Kriener’s advocacy for accessible playgrounds.