A round of applause for Hilary Muehlberger of Greenwood, Missouri, who was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2020 just a couple of weeks ago. She’s the first Ms. Wheelchair America from the state of Missouri to win in the organization’s 48-year history.
Like any good pageant, she was judged through a series of interviews, participation in advocacy and leadership workshops, her presence and public poise, and the substance of her platform speech. But the weeklong competition also required Hilary to demonstrate an ability to advocate for people with disabilities across the nation.
We caught up with the newly minted Ms. Wheelchair America 2020 to find out five things we might not know about her. Always the model of efficiency, she got her answers back to us the same day we asked for them. She should get another crown just for promptness.
5. “I have a crazy obsession with pickled okra. I could easily eat a whole jar in one sitting. My Grandpa Mick got me hooked on the stuff when I was a kid. He always kept a fresh jar in the refrigerator for me.”
4. “I have a T12 incomplete spinal cord injury that I sustained in a car accident in 2015. Incomplete means I have some nerves that do still run through my legs that do work to an extent. I can feel my left leg, but not my right. I can kick my left leg out in front of me and I can pull my right behind me. I do not have enough function in my legs to walk, but it is still a cool party trick.”
3. “I play adaptive tennis. I compete with the Whole Person’s Kansas City No Coast team in many regional competitions. Adaptive sports are sports that are altered to be more accessible for people living with a disability. I play tennis in a sports wheelchair. All the rules are the same—except we get two bounces on our side. I will be competing in the U.S. Open in St. Louis in September.”
2. “I never went into Ms. Wheelchair Missouri thinking I would win. I just thought it would be an opportunity to meet other women in wheelchairs and learn about how to be a strong advocate for the disability community.”
1. “Although I was not the intoxicated driver in the car accident that caused my spinal cord injury, I had been drinking that night, and every night before that, and every night for a year and a half after that. I was not living life on life’s terms and was terrified of the world outside the barroom. On February 10, 2017, I made a desperate call to a friend I knew in a 12-step program and that saved my life. I have been sober ever since.”