The Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant is back in Grand Rapids for the second year in a row.

Michigan's Sharina Jones doesn’t usually think of herself as a mythbuster.

But the opportunity to represent Michigan in the 40th annual Ms. Wheelchair America contest, was too good to pass up, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

“We’re bringing awareness,” said Jones, a 31-year-old paraplegic from Troy who is making her first visit to Grand Rapids.

“And we’re fighting barriers, not just physical, but attitudinal barriers, (attitudes) such as people with disabilities aren’t productive, we’re not as smart and we can’t be mothers.”

Breaking down those barriers is why Ms. Wheelchair America is not a beauty contest, but a pageant with a mission to widen the public’s understanding and acceptance of those who use wheelchairs, said Shelly Loose, state coordinator for Ms. Wheelchair Michigan and executive director of Ms. Wheelchair America.

The pageant will crown a woman Saturday deemed by five judges as the most articulate spokeswoman, one who can communicate the needs and accomplishments of people with disabilities to a public that’s still in the dark about people with disabilities, Loose said.

This year, the pageant has 26 contestants from 26 states, including for the first time, Hawaii.

The pageant culminates Saturday night at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel when Ms. Wheelchair America 2012 is crowned. Among the judges will be Grand Rapids community leader Kate Pew Wolters, chairwoman of the Steelcase Foundation.

The event in the Ambassador Ballroom is open to the public, but tickets are required. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis by emailing:



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