Student Madeline Delp Competes for Miss Wheelchair America

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Madeline Delp

UNC Asheville student Madeline Delp loves an adventure. A self-described adrenaline junky, she’s already been zip-lining and skydiving and made two trips abroad to study and explore in Germany. She’s got plans for much more—and being in a wheelchair isn’t going to slow her down.

As the winner of Miss Wheelchair North Carolina 2016, Delp is already traveling across the state, sharing with others her ideas of “living boundless,” regardless of injury or condition. And when she heads to the Miss Wheelchair America pageant in Michigan this month, she’ll be competing for the chance to share her message with people across the country.

“I want to encourage people that they can do whatever they set their minds to, and push the limits,” Delp said.

In addition to speaking to various disability rights and advocacy groups across the state, Delp is also creating a video series. The videos will focus on a variety of issues, including health, like how to exercise in a wheelchair; how to videos, like how to drive a car or fly on a plane; and inspirational videos, in which Delp encourages viewers to stay confident and keep a positive attitude. But her favorite videos are the adventure videos.

“I’m actually having an adaptive skydiving day in July for people who use chairs or have different disabilities,” Delp said. “Somebody who is blind is interested in coming, and a couple people use chairs. So I just want to encourage people that whatever it is, they can do it, if they just set their mind to it.”

Delp is excited for the chance to compete in Miss Wheelchair America, but said she didn’t always feel so passionate about sharing her experience with others.

“I was injured in a car accident when I was 10, and for many years I avoided anything that had to do with advocacy or socializing with other people who used wheelchairs,” Delp said. “And I know that sounds horrible, but I did it because I completely wanted to avoid all thoughts of my disability. At the time it was tooMadeline Delp met with a wheelchair group in Berlin to talk about their perspective on the city's accessibility. much for me to handle, emotionally. It was like I was ashamed of myself and didn't feel comfortable talking about what I had been through.

“Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to talk to people, and I wanted to show others that they can still live a beautiful wonderful life regardless of what challenges they face.”

Though she’s a bit nervous about the national competition, Delp said she’s excited that this pageant “isn’t really based on beauty at all, it’s purely your speaking ability and your ability to reach out to others.”

Beyond the Miss Wheelchair competition, Delp is creating another video series based on her time abroad, focused on international travel that is accessible to those with mobility issues.

“That’s something I’d be really interested in as a future career, accessible travel, because it’s something that there’s not really that much information on at this point in time,” Delp said. “Roughly 1 percent of the entire population worldwide uses some sort of chair or has something that hinders their mobility.”

And regardless of the outcome of the Miss Wheelchair America pageant, Delp plans to continue spreading her “live boundless” message.

“I like being able to inspire people that they can see the world.”


Delp was named 1st Runner Up in the Miss Wheelchair America pageant, and will be traveling nationally and internationally over the next year together with Miss Wheelchair USA Eliza McIntosh.