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51st annual Ms. Wheelchair America competition underway in Grand Rapids

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Kylie Ambu / WGVU
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Sarah Nassar, representing Michigan in this year’s Ms. Wheelchair America competition.

Grand Rapids plays host to the 51st-annual Ms. Wheelchair America competition, where twenty-two contestants from across the U.S. are contending for the crown. The competition highlights advocacy and achievement of women with disabilities. WGVU spoke with Ms. Wheelchair Michigan, Sarah Nassar about the competition thus far.

24-year-old Sarah Nassar is representing Michigan in this year’s Ms. Wheelchair America contest. She jokes with WGVU about her homefield advantage, as the competition is being held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, alongside sponsor Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

“I think it makes it more fun,” she said. “I’m able to give different gifts that I think a lot of other state holders aren’t able to do, like showing them we have superman ice cream. They don’t have that in their state.”

A Dearborn native, Nassar is competing on a platform to “bring visibility to disabilities.”

“I want to meet up with little kids and talk about disabilities and let them know what it is to have a disability, what types of disabilities there are, just so that they’re able to understand we’re all the same we just have a little bit of differences,” she said.

Nassar is in her third year of law school at Detroit Mercy and is the founder of the Disability Law Association, where she hopes to educate all people about the rights of individuals with disabilities.

“When I was in the 8th grade I wanted to go on the class trip to Washington D.C., and my teacher didn’t want to get a handicap accessible bus, so she discriminated against me. At the time I didn’t know about those rights, and it was really disappointing to me, and I don’t want any other kids to go through that,” Nassar said.

It’s a tough race with 21 others vying for the crown of Ms. Wheelchair America, but Nassar tells WGVU, her competition is what makes the experience so great.

“The highlight for me is getting to know all these girls to be honest with you, because I’m able to relate with them on things that I’m not really able to relate to with my able-bodied friends,” she said. “…All the knowledge that all the other girls have, and all the things they want to change I want to take those with me and make a change in the future and in the world.”

After a series of panels and judging, the winner of Ms. Wheelchair America will be crowned Saturday, August 20.