APPLETON, Wis. – Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin has been stripped of her title because pageant officials say she can stand – and point to a newspaper picture as proof.
Janeal Lee, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a scooter, was snapped by The Post-Crescent newspaper standing among her high school math students.
“I’ve been made to feel as if I can’t represent the disabled citizens of Wisconsin because I’m not disabled enough,” Lee said Thursday.
Lee, 30, of Appleton, had planned to go to the national pageant with her younger sister, who also has muscular dystrophy and won the competition in Minnesota.
Students at Kaukauna High School, where Lee teaches, raised $1,000 for her trip to the national pageant.
The move by the state pageant officials, led by coordinator Gina Hackel, is supported by the national board.
Candidates for the crown have to “mostly be seen in the public using their wheelchairs or scooters,” said Judy Hoit, Ms. Wheelchair America’s treasurer.
“Otherwise you’ve got women who are in their wheelchairs all the time and they get offended if they see someone standing up. We can’t have title holders out there walking when they’re seen in the public.”
Hackel said Lee should have been aware of the rules.
The crown now goes to first runner-up Michelle Kearney of Milwaukee, who will travel to New York in July for the national pageant.