Richmond, VA–August 1, 2004– Following a week-long competition with women from around the country, Juliette Rizzo of Rockville, Maryland, was crowned last night as Ms. Wheelchair America 2005, in Richmond, Virginia, at the 32nd annual Ms. Wheelchair America Program. Rizzo will embark on a year-long reign, traveling the country to speak and advocate on behalf of the more than 50-million Americans with disabilities.

The mission of the Ms. Wheelchair America program is to improve public awareness of the achievements and abilities of women with disabilities and reduce the architectural and attitudinal barriers that impede the quality of life for all people with disabilities. As Ms. Wheelchair America, Rizzo will travel the country, for public speaking opportunities and meetings with civic, government, church, and school groups and leaders to advance her platform and the Ms. Wheelchair America mission. In addition, she will work to help start Ms. Wheelchair programs in the states that do not currently have state-level competitions.

Rizzo is a single, 36-year-old who, at the age of 3, contracted a systemic infection which resulted in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and fibromyalgia. She has a B.A. from Texas A&M University and a Masters of Journalism with a minor in Rehabilitation Studies from the University of North Texas. Currently she is the Director of Communication & Media for the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services. She serves on the Arthritis Foundation – Metropolitan Washington Chapter Board, was appointed Commissioner of the Montgomery County Commission on People with Disabilities, and serves on the Women’s Committee for the National Symphony Orchestra. Her hobbies include a new-found fitness regime, accessible container gardening, and traveling. Rizzo’s platform is power through participation.

This year’s national program was organized by Wayne Sale, President of Health First of Richmond and Chairman of Ms. Wheelchair Virginia. “We have had 26 winners competing here this week,” says Sale, “and they’re all energized to return to their states to continue their advocacy work, and make a difference for people with disabilities.” The runners up for the Ms. Wheelchair America 2005 title were as follows:

* 1st Runner Up – Marva Ways, of Inkster, Michigan
* 2nd Runner Up – Pam Clark, of Martinsville, Virginia
* 3rd Runner Up – Angela Wrigglesworth, of Houston, Texas
* 4th Runner Up – Sarah Anderson, of El Sobrante, California

To participate in the Ms. Wheelchair America program, women must be 21-60 years old and use a wheelchair for daily mobility. Marital status is not a consideration, and it is not a beauty pageant. Contestants are judged on public speaking, personal interviews and on-stage interviews.

Sponsors of this year’s national program include Health First Home Medical Equipment, Schwartz Zweben & Associates, Ford Motor Company, DateAble, Sunrise Medical/Quickie, Pride Mobility, Independence Technology, Richmond Marriott and American Airlines.

For more information on Juliette Rizzo, please visit www.ms-wheelchair-md.com and for more information about the Ms. Wheelchair America program, please go to www.mswheelchairamerica.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Ellen Beard
Work: 434-245-8300
Cell: 434-996-4290
E-mail: beardmedia@earthlink.net