Ms. Wheelchair Florida 2016, Heather Taylor, is visiting cities throughout Florida to share her message of “Be the Change, Be Empowered.” Taylor found herself confined to a wheelchair after surviving a horrible tragedy that caused her to lose both her parents.
After the loss of her parents, she decided that instead of feeling sorry for herself she decided to make a change. Taylor’s mother had often told her throughout her life that there are a purpose and reason for everything. While Taylor briefly thought about the purpose of surviving a horrible incident and being wheelchair bound for the rest of her life, she decided her purpose was to empower, educate and advocate for others in the disabled community that faces the same obstacles she does. Her goal is to turn obstacles into opportunities.
Taylor plans to do this by setting a good example and inspiring others to seek opportunities. The thirty-three-year-old wife and mother recently visited Spanish River Park in Boca Raton, Florida. She was there to praise Boca’s commitment to providing wheelchair users with beach access.
The city’s effort has allowed wheelchair users to gain access to areas of the beach they never had before. The city of Boca Raton installed 10 foot wide mats made of recyclable materials along the beach. Some mats stretch out towards the ocean. This is an area wheelchair users were not able to access in the past. The $12,000 improvement project was worth every penny to accommodate the disabled community.
Wheelchair users have access to the mats all year except for the months of March through October. The mats are removed to accommodate the ocean turtle nesting season every year. Taylor is quick to point out that during her visit she felt like royalty using the mats and enjoyed a beautiful day at a pristine Florida beach. She is thrilled that every wheelchair user has the same opportunity to visit the beach.
According to Heather Taylor, “We’re hoping to get the word out to disabled communities that the beach in Boca Raton is accessible.” She wants to encourage wheelchair users to broaden their horizons and explore their opportunity to visit the beach. Taylor is highly appreciative of being able to travel across the state of Florida highlighting the accessible improvements being made to each community as Ms. Wheelchair Florida.
The pageant has given Taylor the opportunity to fulfill her desire to make a difference in the world and the disabled community. She continues to bring attention to the communities in Florida as well as advocate and empower others with disabilities to find opportunities for improvement within their own city.
Boca’s Boating Bash for People with Disabilities executive director, Jay Van Vechten said, “The Ms. Wheelchair Florida program creates role models for people in wheelchairs. When you observe Ms. Wheelchair Florida rising above her own disability, it shows people within the disabled community that they are not defined by their mobility issues. Heather Taylor plans to finish her reign as Ms. Wheelchair Florida on a high note and already has plans to continue advocating afterward.