GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WCBD)- It was big weekend for Tatianna Davis who placed third in the national Ms. Wheelchair America competition and took home the top prize in the ‘Oustanding Speech’ category.
Davis, an Anderson, S.C. native, was one of 21 women from across the United States who traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich. to compete in the week-long competition.
Throughout the week, the women participated in workshops on leadership training, self-care, and advocacy, including ones on wheelchair and adaptive sports and spinal cord injuries and sexual health, led by nonprofit group Mary Free Bed.
“All the Ms. Wheelchair America contestants play a critical role in the hope, freedom, and success of those who are wheelchair users,” Amy Stuursma, president of the Mary Free Bed Guild said. “We thank you for your commitment to achievement and success for all.”
On the last day of competition, the women delivered impassioned speeches in front of a live audience focusing on how they would use the Ms. Wheelchair America platform to support and advocate for closely-held causes.
Davis’ speech centered around workplace advovacy and highlighted the need to increase access to trade programs for individuals with disabilities. Davis has sustained more than 100 broken bones and undergone 10 surgeries as a result of a rare bone disorder.
“‘I am so sorry, you were not highered for this position’ or ‘you don’t have enough experience therefore we think you are not capable of doing this job.’ These are some phrases I’ve heard as a woman with a disability looking for employment,” Davis said during the opening of her winning speech.
On Saturday, the top five finalists were selected and a new Ms. Wheelchair America was crowned. Ms. North Carolina Ali Ingersoll took the title, followed by Ms. Michigan, Ms. South Carolina, Ms. Arizona, and Ms. Pennsylvania.
Here is the complete list of awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award – Ms. New Jersey, Lea Donaghy
Nicki Ard Achievement Award – Ms. Texas, Kristy Durso
Outstanding Speech Award – Ms. South Carolina, Tatianna Davis
People’s Choice Award – Ms. North Carolina, Ali Ingersoll
Congeniality Award – Ms. Georgia, Alesha Savannah
Rising Star Award – Ms. Kansas, Marci Clare, and Ms. Oregon, Melinda Preciado
Most Promising Award – Ms. Maryland, Kisha Stover
The Mary Free Bed Guild Hope and Freedom Award – Ms. Michigan, Sarah Nassar
Ms. Wheelchair America was started in 1972 as a competition based on advocacy, achievement, and presentation and each year crowns a spokeswoman to represent the millions of American living with disabilties.