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Ms. Wheelchair can stand, so she's stripped of her title
The announcement of the new winner Tuesday came amid protests over pageant officials' decision last week to take the crown away from Janeal Lee, a high school teacher and muscular dystrophy sufferer who uses a scooter as her main way to get around but says she can walk up to 50 feet on a good day and stand while teaching.
During the furor, the runner-up refused to accept the crown out of protest. Lee's sister, who also has muscular dystrophy and was named Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota. Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota., dropped out of the competition in that state. And the coordinator for the organization's Minnesota program stepped down from her job to "stand up for Janeal Lee."
"I no longer feel comfortable supporting an organization that instead of working towards creating a positive change, chooses to perpetuate stereotypes and requests its participants to hide their abilities while in public," said the sister, 26-year-old Sharon Spring of Rochester, Minn.
Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin. Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin. officials stripped Lee of the crown after the 30-year-old was shown standing in her classroom in a photograph carried in a supplement to The Post-Crescent newspaper of Appleton.
"Who is to say who is more disabled and less disabled than another person?" Kearney told The Post-Crescent. "Had I accepted, it's as if I had been saying I'm OK with the decision."
"Clearly, it would be better if this didn't have to happen to spark any interest or conversation about disabilities," Lee said.