Rotterdam disability advocate to compete in Ms. Wheelchair America

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They say if you can see it, you can be it. A Rotterdam woman says she wants the world to see she’s ready to take on any challenge that comes her way.

Heather Horwedel currently holds the title of Ms. Wheelchair New York and is getting ready to compete for Ms. Wheelchair America.

The competition is not about glamour. The winner is crowned as a national disability advocate.

The idea to enter the statewide Ms. Wheelchair competition started with a goal, to put herself out there.

“Everybody’s been pushing me, like, you should try this one time. I was kind of nervous, like, ‘No that’s okay.’ This year I decided, ‘You know what, why not me?’” said Horwedel.

It’s paid off for Horwedel. She was crowned Ms. Wheelchair New York in March. Saturday, she’s headed to Michigan to compete against other women in Ms. Wheelchair America.

“I say competing against, but it’s really a chance to get to know other advocates,” she said.
Horwedel is bringing years of experience working with the Spina Bifida Association of New York State. Her family has been involved with the organization since the early 1990s. Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spine.

“I started as a peer mentor and progressed to doing things like legislative advocacy,” she explained.
She also works for an after school program, teaching her students, too, about different disabilities.

Horwedel says she’s constantly advocating for herself and people with all kinds of disabilities. She recently spoke up and asked Crossgates Mall to make the bathrooms more accessible.

“I would go into one of the bathrooms and notice that I couldn’t reach the soap dispenser because it was up too high. Within a few weeks, they made the changes that needed to be fixed,” she said.

Asked if advocating gets exhausting, she said, “It can be, but being able to educate the public and people with disabilities and working together is the only way that things are going to change. It’s pretty frequent that there’s things that need to be changed or could be improved, but all that takes is a little bit of education.”

The competition starts Monday in Grand Rapids. You can follow Horwedel’s journey here.

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