March 2023 in Review

“Hi, all, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2023 – Allison Boot here. I want to take this opportunity to write something up about the appearances I have made since earning my title on March 12th.

Firstly, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a meeting of the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee. Breaking Silences is a group that was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to advocate for change regarding the problems faced by those with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Jeremiah Wagner, Deputy Director of External Relations with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) was at the meeting to discuss the DODD budget, in which he has been taking the committee’s input on for quite some time. All I can say is…WOW If even half of the changes discussed happen in the next couple of years, it will be AMAZING. There is hope for pay increases for direct support providers, care waiver reform, and representation of at least 1 person with a developmental disability on all 88 Ohio County Developmental Disabilities Boards. This makes me so happy. Advocacy to help improve the direct care crisis is something that is extremely important to me and all of the 2023 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio ambassadors because direct care is vital to our lives. I am so grateful for the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee for helping the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities get the budget to this point. I am humbled and honored to be able to join them and help make a difference from here on out.

Secondly, I had the absolute pleasure of being a community judge for a National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA) tournament in Cincinnati.  I was the solo judge of a limited debate round, where students debated whether or not an individual’s right to property should be valued over economic interests. I was in awe of the amount of insight the students had and very pleasantly surprised by the grace and poise with which they conducted themselves. Then, two others and I judged interpretative speeches. Students worked in teams of two to act out a theme of a work of literature. We had to judge them on things like content, organization, blocking, characterization, and impact. The Lorax and the Prince and Pauper are just two of the books that the students chose to interpret. I particularly enjoyed the interpretative speeches because of the connection to literature but found them difficult to judge because all of the students did such a wonderful job. I am hopeful that in the future students will choose to interpret a work of inclusive literature such as my first novel Just The Way You Are. The more awareness brought to inclusive literature, the better! I enjoyed meeting so many people and having the opportunity to tell them about the Ms. Wheelchair Ohio competition, the upcoming Ms. Wheelchair America competition, and my inclusive literature platform. However, the aspect of judging I enjoyed the most was seeing so many promising students. I sometimes worry about what the future is going to look like. After meeting so many intelligent, respectful students last night, I am a little less worried knowing our future is in good hands.

Thirdly, I had the chance to participate in a Walk & Roll at the Mall at Fairfield Commons put on by All Hands In Network – GCBDD. Spending time with the group and hearing all about their efforts to help people with developmental disabilities living in Greene County live more meaningful, richer lives was inspiring. It was an honor to spend time with them at the Walk & Roll. While at the event, I met a gentleman who helps youth in my home county transition into and out of high school. He was inspired by my personal story, which I found very humbling. The gentleman is connected to eight different local schools and said he will put me in touch with the right people to speak to regarding scheduling future speaking engagements. Given that, I am hopeful that attending the Walk & Roll will lead to many future collaborations.

Furthermore, I had the pleasure of attending the webinar “Mental Health & The Disabled Working Woman: How Young Women Professionals with Paralysis Balance Work, Romance, and Everything Else” held by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in collaboration with the Disability EmpowHer Network. The discussion explored the impact of sexism, ageism, and ableism that women with paralysis experience, as well as other unique issues that disabled young women professionals face that impact their mental health. I honestly wish the webinar had lasted longer than an hour because it just scratched the surface of some very important conversations that women with disabilities need to continue to have.  There was not nearly enough time to ask all the questions that needed to be asked or answer all the questions that needed to be answered. This webinar was recommended to me by 2023 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 1st Runner-Up, Elizabeth Brassell. The mental health of women with disabilities and women as a whole is something that Elizabeth and I are both passionate about.  I will make it a point to continue conversations like those started at the webinar today and I am hopeful that many other women with and without disabilities will as well. The more voices included in the conversation, the better!

Most importantly, I had the opportunity to go to the statehouse in Columbus to testify to the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services regarding House Bill 33 which supports funding for caregivers and home and community services. As I’ve said in other postings, the direct care crisis is something that the 2023 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio ambassadors and I are passionate about improving. Given that, I was honored to have this opportunity. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to memorize my entire five-minute testimony but I did remember some of it and more importantly, I received really positive feedback. A mother who was there with her son stopped me in the hallway after and told me I did a great job and that she was so happy that her son got to see my testimony. Her statement and her happiness really touched my heart. I am so grateful to Ms. Wheelchair Ohio for giving me such an amazing platform. If you are interested, you can watch my testimony via the link below.

I am hopeful that I will have many more exciting appearance opportunities in April. Last week, I met with a gentleman affiliated with the Crawford County Board of Developmental Disabilities. He knows many superintendents of schools in Crawford County and said he would pass along my information. I am hopeful our meeting will lead to many more meetings. Additionally, I have spoken with the Ohio State Independent Living Council and am hopeful that we will be able to schedule an in person meeting sometime in April to discuss future collaborations. I have been reaching out to schools as much as I can to tell them about my Ms. Wheelchair Ohio platform and my books. I am happy to say that my hard work is paying off. I have been invited to speak at an assembly at Monticello Elementary in Huber Heights soon. I am hopeful that one of the in-person fundraisers I have been planning will come together in April. Be sure to read my next blog in May to read all about how April goes for me. In the meantime, if you have an additional appearance opportunity in mind for me, please email me at”