How Miss Wheelchair Canada Is Breaking Beauty Misconceptions


This past August, the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association of Canada held an event called Miss Wheelchair Canada, a beauty pageant celebrating women of all cultures and abilities, specifically women who use wheelchairs. The heart and soul behind Miss Wheelchair Canada is Olesya Kornienko, the president of the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association of Canada. Kornienko first came across the concept of “Miss Wheelchair Canada” from a friend in Poland, who hosted Miss Wheelchair Poland. Kornienko decided that Canada should have one too, and so Miss Wheelchair Canada was born.

I thought I knew the concept of a beauty pageant, which was to look amazing and be able to do brilliant things for your community. I never imagined myself competing in a beauty pageant, let alone a beauty pageant for women in wheelchairs. There’s a stigma attached to using a wheelchair, which includes the idea that you are unkempt, unattractive and incapable of being a productive member of society. Anyone who knows me can and will object to this.

On August 25, 2018, I was put to the test. Despite being a Creative Writing major at Douglas College, I’m constantly trying to find innovative ways to make a character be in a wheelchair because why should I hide the best part of myself? The idea of using a wheelchair is associated with such a negative perspective, and many people automatically consider you a weak person. I feel extremely blessed to be part of a movement that showcases women in wheelchairs as fierce and confident, because that’s who these exceptional women truly are.

The experience was incomparable to anything I’ve done before. Six women including me were participating in workshops at the Gathering Place Community Center where we tried on our gowns, had a hair and makeup team and received dance lessons from Lana Shahar. Shahar showed us dance moves, adapted accordingly for everyone, demonstrating that women in wheelchairs can dance like anyone else would. The grand event took place at the Roundhouse Community Center, with an audience of approximately 100 people. Bean Gill, an Edmonton woman won the prestigious crown of Miss Wheelchair Canada 2018. Gill embodies what it means to be Miss Wheelchair Canada as she is a co-founder of a rehab center.

This story originally appeared on The Writing Side.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Disability

Screenshot of SERS chart and Betsy DeVos

Why the Trump Administration 'Rethinking' Special Education Is Concerning

I parent two children with disabilities who have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) at school; children who currently receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This is an educational right for all children with disabilities in the United States, guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). On Thursday, [...]

10 Suggestions to Care for Yourself When You Parent Kids With Additional Needs

Schools are back. Why then are you not filled with the feeling of peaceful tranquillity likened to that of a meditating Buddha? Why do you feel as though an electric current is running through your body, which is being held up by the clothes you are wearing as you are so tired you can barely [...]
Outside sign for Trump Tower

New Commentary Shows Trump Has a History of Disregarding Disabled People

People with disabilities have spoken out regarding Donald Trump’s treatment of disabled people as well as his use of insults like the R-word since Trump announced his intention to run for president. While some of these incidents may have seemed isolated, new commentary shows the President has a history of making ableist remarks that spans [...]
Rosie on the train in a disability reserved space.

When People Call Disability Accommodations 'Unfair'

It should be almost second nature for abled people in the U.K. There are signs and adverts; we know some spaces are meant for those of different ability levels. This could apply to any form of accessibility. I’ve had to fight for them all, only to have an able person demand they get it too. [...]