Every year the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization holds an annual competition to recognize the achievements of women who use wheelchairs and to select a representative to represent Tennessee at the national Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. This competition is often referred to as a pageant, but it is NOT a beauty pageant. Contestants are NOT judged on physical beauty. They are judged on accomplishments, communication skills, and self-perception/projection.
The pageant is a day long event that contains workshops that educate contestants and the public on issues facing those with disabilities. There are four judging sessions that include the platform speech, 2 interviews, and the fishbowl. Each contestant has a platform they focus on. A platform is a disability issue that the contestant wants to educate people on or an issue they want to fix or improve. The judges interview contains questions about advocacy, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and what the contestant would do when faced with disability issues or questions from people that do not understand what people with disabilities are capable of. The fishbowl is when the contestant draws a judges name and that judge asks them 2 questions, on stage. One question is serious and the other is light hearted.
Tennessee has three age categories. Girls ages 6-12 compete for Little Miss Wheelchair. Girls in this age group are not expected to give platform speeches. Young women ages 13-20 compete for Junior Miss Wheelchair. Women ages 21-60 compete for Ms. Wheelchair. The winner of the Ms. category goes on to the national competition.