She’s won the state crown and she’s looking forward to a national competition—meet Jean-Marie Lawrence, UTC alumna (’11, Political Science: Legal Studies), UTC graduate student, and the new Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2012. Lawrence is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration: Local Government.
Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee is an advocacy competition open to women who use wheelchairs for 90-100% of their time outside the home.
Lawrence’s platform speech addressed transportation challenges. She explained that cities with strong public transit systems offer limited services for those with disabilities. Lawrence wants to press for expanded services and improvements at bus stops.
“I also want to work toward a tax break incentive for taxi companies so that they can purchase vans that are wheelchair accessible,” Lawrence explained.
Lawrence was diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD) at age seven. At 13- years-old she began to use a wheelchair outside of the home and at age 19, she began to use her wheelchair all the time. She feels strongly that “it is the responsibility of governments and businesses to be as accessible as possible for people with disabilities to ensure we have equal opportunities in society.”
Lawrence came to UTC as a freshman in 2005, and she’s glad she has stayed to pursue her master’s degree.
“The Office for Students with Disabilities is open and has been vital to my development as a student with a disability. The University as a whole has contributed to experiences, which have made me the person and advocate I am today,” Lawrence explained.
From August 6-12, Lawrence will compete for the Miss Wheelchair America crown in Providence, Rhode Island.