Local woman named Ms. Wheelchair Ohio

A Beavercreek resident has been advocating for those with disabilities throughout her life and her new title will allow her to take that goal a step further.

Allison Boot, who has cerebral palsy, was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2023 after a weekend-long event at the Mount Vernon Grand Hotel. Ms. Wheelchair Ohio is an advocacy- and education-based nonprofit organization that focuses on raising awareness about disabilities and the physical, attitudinal, and institutional barriers people with disabilities face – as well as illuminating the successes of women wheelchair users.

During the competition, Boot participated in a private interview session with judges, a public speech presentation and answers to two on-stage questions. Like most people would be, Boot was a little bit nervous.

“I was (nervous). I actually did not think I did very well in the interview because I (rambled a bit) because there was so much I wanted to make sure I said right. ... But I am of course very happy and very honored to have been given a platform,” she said.

Like many competitions, participants are asked to have a platform or cause that they feel passionate about. Boot, who is a three-time self-published author, wants to use her writing to highlight characters with disabilities to help raise awareness, embrace differences, advocate for acceptance and dream big, or READ.

“One of my main goals when I applied was to get the word out about my books. Interesting, inclusive literature in general is a very under-appreciated book category. I want youth with disabilities to know that they can dream big and accomplish what they want in life even with their disabilities,” she said.

Boot received her master of arts in mass communication from the University of Dayton in 2014. Her undergraduate work was done at Wright State University. Being a communication major made the speech portion of the competition a little bit easier. However, she was still surprised when her name was called as the winner.

“It was very surprising, but I was very excited. I knew after my speech that I had done well because my husband smiled really big. I didn’t know where I was going to rank, but at least I know I won’t come in last. Very surprised and very happy to accept the title,” she said.

Currently, Boot and her husband work remotely as co-coordinators of the disability Resource Expo for Champaign County Mental Health Board in Urbana, Illinois where they both used to live. They help those with disabilities find resources and make them aware of the organization’s mission.

Now with her new title, she will have a lot more work to do. She’s already booked some appearances and recently was a guest speaker in Columbus at a Ohio legislature meeting for the subcommittee on Finance, Health and Human Services in support of home and community-based services.

“I did a five-minute testimony. People said I did really well. I actually had a mother stop me in the hallway … who was there with her son, and she told me what a great job I did. She was happy her son had gotten to see me testify and I was really touched by that,” she said.

Boot plans to travel around Ohio to as many schools as she can to spread her platform message. She will also share her passion with businesses, government leaders and the general public to initiate change for the disability community.

In August, Boot will travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to compete for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America. She will again have to discuss her platform, give a speech and participate in judging sessions.

“I don’t know what all the competition entails yet, but I am excited about meeting other women with disabilities from all over,” she said.

Boot has many goals and aspirations for the future. She wants to write more books. She also wants to reach out to youth with disabilities, so that they know they have a support system and can do whatever they want in life.

“One of the questions on the application was ‘Why do you want to be Ms. Wheelchair Ohio?’ I said that even though I have a very supportive family who loves me very much, I wasn’t exposed to the disability community until I got to college. I would have appreciated having someone like me to let me know that it was OK to have a disability. I want to be the mentor that I did not have,” she said.

As with many competitions, there is a lot of fundraising that must be done. Boot said the cost to apply for the competition was $2,000. She will have fundraising events in the area over the next couple months. She currently has a GoFundMe where people can donate titles Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2023 Advocacy Campaign.

Credit: Amanda Braun

Credit: Amanda Braun

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