For Lindsey Becker, 33, of Manchester, receiving the title Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2018 provided an opportunity to make a positive impact.
Since winning the contest in September, Becker has been meeting with community leaders and participating in TV and radio shows to bring ideas for changes and improvements that could potentially help and empower individuals with disabilities.
Becker, born with spina bifida, has also been connecting with children and adults who have had to fight similar battles.
Becker is now serving as a role model, teaching children they are stronger than the hurdles they face.
She’s also taken the chance to share her experiences with parents of children with disabilities, hoping to equip parents with knowledge and understanding.
For Becker, the availability of resources has had a positive effect, giving her confidence and showing her that others have overcome similar tough situations.
Now, she has focused on sharing information about the numerous organizations striving to provide individuals with disabilities with knowledge and help them succeed in any endeavor.
Making a difference
While Becker has taken the opportunities provided to her by winning the title very seriously, she said she’s enjoyed every moment of the exciting and empowering journey.
“I am only about four months into my reign, and it’s honestly hard to just pick one thing as my favorite experience so far,” Becker said. “It has already been so life-changing.”
She has had the chance to meet community leaders and share ideas with them.
“I’ve had so many amazing opportunities,” she said. “I’m getting to do all kinds of awesome things, from radio and TV interviews to meeting Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.”
Becker has been appointed by Barry to serve on the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities.
The committee consists of persons with disabilities, family members of people with disabilities, professionals representing the private and public sectors, interested citizens and elected officials.
Committee members serve for two consecutive two-year terms.
“The committee addresses accessibility issues in Nashville and, usually, meets once a month” Becker said.
As a member of the committee, Becker plans to bring ideas, with the hope to see enhancements for the disabled community, she said.
“I just want to help people understand the day-to-day issues we face,” she said. “There are always ways to improve, from making sure the aisles are clear in clothing or grocery stores to not abusing parking spaces,” Becker said.
Simple things, such as not parking on the spaces designated for loading and uploading wheelchairs can make a big difference.
“Also, common courtesy-type things can help,” she said. “For example, when you’re holding a door for someone in a wheelchair, it’s easier to be on the outside of the door, so you’re not standing in the doorway because that narrows the path to get through the door.”
Often, people don’t know how to help because they feel uncomfortable to ask, said Becker.
“People are trying to help and, sometimes, they don’t know how to help,” Becker said. “If you’re not sure how to help, the best way to know is to ask, because everyone is a little bit different. Some people don’t want help at all, some people wouldn’t ask for help unless you offered it, and some people, like me, will tell you exactly what they need.”
Being respectful is what matters, she said.
“Sometimes, if you do too much, it may come across as being insulting,” she said. “People mean well; they just don’t always know how to handle it.”
Another recent memorable experience for Becker has been participating in an event hosted by ABLE (Adapt, Believe, Love, Enjoy) Youth, a Nashville-based organization that works to train children who use wheelchairs not to be defined by their disabilities.
ABLE Youth leads children ages 3-12 and young adults 13-22 into becoming independent, graduate from high school and continue their education in college or enter the workforce.
The program uses sports as a motivating catalyst for children to reach goals of independence.
Becker, who credits the program with inspiring her to participate in the Ms. Wheelchair pageant, now has the chance to give back and motivate others to follow their dreams.
“I also had the opportunity to speak at an elementary school in Chattanooga to 200-300 students,” Becker said. “I also spoke to a group of college students studying social work at MTSU, and I did a podcast for ajnashville.com a few weeks ago.”
The podcast focuses on military veterans. With her husband Wes Becker being a retired disabled Marine Corps veteran, participating in the podcast has been very heartwarming, she said.
‘Making the world a little bit better’
Becker said she can always count on her husband to cheer for her.
“I know how passionate she is about helping people in general,” he said. “I know (this opportunity) is a dream come true for her. I love to see her face when she realizes she made a difference. Every child, every parent, and every government official she reaches with her message makes the world a little bit better.”
Behind the camera
The Ms. Wheelchair title also provides Becker with the chance to participate in a production for NECAT (Nashville Education Communication Arts Television).
“The TV interview I did was one of my favorites,” she said. “It’s something I had never experienced before.”
The production involved children enrolled in the ABLE Youth TV Camp program.
“Kids with wheelchairs and disabilities learned how to do everything behind the scenes for shooting a TV show,” Becker said. “Kids with wheelchairs were running the big cameras and teleprompters, and they got to do it all themselves.”
Seeing the children empowered and able to run the show was exciting and rewarding, said Becker.
“It was really neat to be interviewed through that program,” she said.
Gaining the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2018 has provided Becker with the chance and drive to connect with as many people as possible, she said.
“My favorite part about this whole experience has been just getting an opportunity to meet so many different groups of people and share my experiences with them, (hoping) that might help them in some way in the future,” she said. “There are so many ways that people with disabilities can make a positive difference within their community.”
This journey has challenged Becker and has made her more passionate about uplifting others, she said.
Upcoming national contest
Becker is now preparing for the upcoming Ms. Wheelchair America 2019 competition.
The event is set for July 30-Aug. 5, and will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“I am really looking forward to it,” she said. “It would be amazing to be able to have an opportunity to help people and, hopefully, be a role model to others on a national level.”
A 2004 graduate of Coffee County High School, Becker now lives in Franklin with her husband.
Becker is the daughter of Mike and Valerie Maples, of Tullahoma. She is the granddaughter of Jean Pierce, of Manchester, and the late Stan Pierce.
Elena Cawley may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.