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Ms. Wheelchair Virginia:
Live life beyond limits
Ms. Wheelchair Virginia Kanika Davis (center) is seen Tuesday as Pam Cobler, executive director of the Ms. Wheelchair Virginia program (right), listens to VMNH Executive Director Joe Keiper.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
By TARA LUCAS AND HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Staff Writers
Ms. Wheelchair Virginia Kanika Davis has learned not to let obstacles stand in the way of enjoying life.
Davis’ platform in the Ms. Wheelchair Virginia competition was “Life Beyond Limits.” Her message is that “when you’re faced with unfortunate situations,” she advocates having the “ability to move forward and not stop anybody from living.”
Davis, 30, spoke to the Disabilities Unlimited group Tuesday at the Henry County Administration Building.
She told the group that she was an active child and teenager until she became severely ill with Crohn’s disease at age 14. She underwent surgery for the disease, and a second surgical procedure was performed when she was 15. While the operation was taking place, Davis’ spinal cord was injured.
“I literally went in the hospital walking and came out in a wheelchair. This happened in less than 24 hours,” she said.
After becoming disabled, Davis spent time in rehabilitation centers to learn how to take care of herself. “It was important to me to get back to some type of normalcy,” she said.
She viewed the transition from a rehabilitation center to home as a reality check. Rehabilitation facilities are fully accessible, but her home was not, she explained.
“You don’t realize how much strength you need to push yourself around,” she added.
Davis spent a year and a half out of high school because of her injury. She returned to school and graduated before attending Radford University.
“Going to college was a new challenge,” she said. “I learned about disability acceptance. College was about personal growth.”
Davis recalled planning routes to get to classes on time while avoiding paths that were too tedious.
After graduating, Davis earned a master’s degree from Liberty University. She is a vocational counselor with the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services who works to help high school students with disabilities be successful.
A student with a disability can do the same activities as a student who is not disabled, she said. Disabled students just have to find different ways of doing certain things, she added.
Davis also helps students with disabilities to “prepare them for what to expect” when they enter the workforce.
Also Tuesday, Davis visited the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Coincidentally, a group of 175 students from the Piedmont Residential Governor’s School of Lynchburg was there on a tour. Because Davis is from Lynchburg, she joined them in the beginning and gave a three-minute talk to introduce them to the museum.
Both Davis and Pam Cobler, the executive director of the Ms. Wheelchair Virginia program, praised how easy it is to get around the museum in a wheelchair.
VMNH Executive Director Joe Keiper gave a private tour to a small group from Disabilities Unlimited on Tuesday morning. The group of about 30 people included some with people with disabilities, including cognitive, sensory and mobile, Cobler said.
Davis now is preparing for the Ms. Wheelchair America competition, to be held in August in Long Beach, Calif.
“I try to embrace every day with laughter, smiles and encouragement,” she said.