In 1972, Dr. Philip K. Wood of Columbus, Ohio, established Ms. Wheelchair America because of his work helping persons with functional impairments. He wanted to give women that used wheelchairs for mobility a platform to share their stories. Dr. Wood believed everyone needed to see and understand what he did. The many talents, capabilities and determination they modeled. He understood the importance of looking past differences and accepting each other as contributing members of society. When this started to happen, he believed that change would start and the many architectural and attitudinal barriers could be broken-down. This mission continues today.
For 50 years, the Ms. Wheelchair America organization, a 501c3 nonprofit, has been operated by dedicated volunteers. consisting of State Coordinators and State Titleholders. During this time there has been a representative from 48 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. To date there have been over 1000 state titleholders to share the mission that all people with disabilities will have the opportunities to lead productive and meaningful lives. Ms. Wheelchair America has helped these women find their voice and facilitate positive change throughout America. Unlike a traditional beauty pageant, Ms. Wheelchair America is not a contest to select the most attractive women. It is instead a competition based on advocacy, leadership and achievements. Each year, state titleholders gather to learn, build relationships and crown a spokeswoman to represent the 61 million Americans living with disabilities.