A 22-year-old Beaver Dam woman was crowned the new Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin last week and will be sharing her own story across the state about how her life has changed after she has been in a wheelchair.

“As a woman who wasn’t born with her injury, I have been able to see both sides of life,” Abigail Lane-Pocius said in her speech. “But trust me, walking isn’t all they crack it up to be.”

The 2013 Beaver Dam High School graduate has been in a wheelchair since a Feb. 13, 2014, accident left her paraplegic.

“When I was newly injured and starting to venture out, I had finally noticed what was lacking in the relationship between the able population and the ‘disabled population,’” Lane-Pocius said.

Lane-Pocius was crowned the new Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin in Plymouth at the Plymouth Brewing Company. She is attending UW-Oshkosh for a degree in psychology. Her motto and platform is ACE — “Accommodate, Communicate and Educate.”

“I adore my professors and classes,” Lane-Pocius said.

Her professor and boss, Alicia Johnson, has been a huge supporter. Lane-Pocius interned at the women’s center on UW-Oshkosh’s campus, and that is where she found out about the Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin competition.

“I met a woman named Ashley Doll who told me about the contest and expressed that she thought I’d be a great candidate,” Lane-Pocius said. “I agreed with her, and here I am with a title that I worked hard to get.”

The pageant was held Feb. 3 after being rescheduled twice — the first time due to the passing of the event coordinator the night before it was originally to be held, and the second time due to Lane-Pocius’ hospitalization with the flu.

“The contest was really fun,” Lane-Pocius said.

It started out with getting name badges and coffee/tea with breakfast pastries.

“We all mingled and got to know one another,” Lane-Pocius said. “In the beginning, we had five participants, but by the end there was two — myself and Amber. During the pageant, there were two sets of private interviews, a set of public questions and a public speech. I know my speech was for sure one of my high points, as well as having knowledge about ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws and policies that are in place locally and in Wisconsin. I’m looking forward to work with the local government and the state government to better our city and our state.”

In the speech, Lane-Pocius talked about her platform and how she wanted Wisconsin to be on the forefront of being more accommodating for the disabled. In addition, improving communication will be a focus.

“Education is just as important as accommodation and communication,” Lane-Pocius said. “I believe with extensive and continued education, we as a population can show those who are willing to listen that we are just as abled but may need to take the longer road or maybe even a shortcut. It’s time that we as people and as a populace take action. Bringing in education programming, workshops and multiple seminars, I believe we can make a change.”

Lane-Pocius will attend events around the state, hold programs and question-and-answer seminars, as well as share her platform and story.

“My goal is to visit 10 schools and share my story as well as the struggles that come with the wheelchair,” Lane-Pocius said. “Another goal of mine is to pass at least one law.”

She will also be competing in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant this summer.

Reporter at The Daily Citizen