Elizabeth Reeve – Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma (USA) 2011


Before you watch Johnny’s interview with Elizabeth Reeve, here’s what you should know about Elizabeth…

In 2001, Elizabeth Reeve was an able-bodied Special Education teacher working with severely and profoundly disabled students, when in a moment, her life changed.  With her teaching assistant away from the classroom, Elizabeth tended to an epileptic student experiencing a seizure.  Alone to care for the child, she was physically overwhelmed by the force and demands of the episode, and as a result, severely injured her back.  The resulting damage to her spine and vertebrae, coupled with a preexisting condition of spinal bifida occulta, forced Elizabeth to require the use of a wheelchair for mobility and everyday activities.

“My wheelchair walks for me,” she says.  “And with the use of my service dog, she actually helps me out as well so that sometimes I can actually get up and she’ll help me pivot to another chair.  My dog acts as my walking tool.”

Elizabeth’s experience with her service dog, Sassy, has not only resulted in two books on the subject, it serves as the basis of her platform as Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma (USA) 2011.  Based upon her own experience of integrating her dog with public life, it’s an area that brings to light the importance of assistance to those in need.

“A service dog – my service dog –  helps out with giving an individual independence where they don’t have to have another person around 24/7,” she says.  “She is actually able to do everything for me and gives me a greater sense of independence because of the fact that I know she can help me.”

Today Elizabeth not only fulfills her obligations as Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma (USA) 2011 and is an advocate for the physically challenged, she is also pursuing a Masters in Special Education.  In many ways, her life has come full circle.

“What I’m trying to do is become a professor that teaches teachers how to teach Special Ed., because it’s still in my heart to be able to work with the students,” she says.  “And since I can no longer lift like I used to, it’s really difficult to get into the public schools.  But if I could teach other teachers how to do it, and to be able to have the same kind of love I have for the students that have special needs, then I can live on and have those teachers teach those students.”

Below is the video of Johnny interviewing Elizabeth.

Download audio MP3 file (Right-click and choose “Save Target As…” or “Save File As…”)

Download the transcript of this interview (PDF)


  1. Pageant Queen says:

    This would be a great article/interview if it were true at all. She is able to walk and functions well in doing so. She only uses a wheelchair publicly for sympathy. Her dog is no more a service dog than any other pound dog. Yep, that’s right! Her supposed service dog is a pound dog and had no ADA traing to be a service dog. The dog has no training whatsoever and has to be muzzled or wear a shock collar to keep it from biting people. It’s to bad that service dog vests are sold on EBay where anyone wanting to pass a dog off as a service dog can buy them.
    She also left her former pageant (Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma America) in a poor manner and bankrupting the pageant when leaving. She publicly speaks poorly of the pageant, especially the mothers of the Jr and Little Miss titleholders. She did this for completely selfish reasons. So that she could hold the title of Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma USA. And guess what, you will see her in a crown again next year. Like it or not, she has created yet another pageant an will be Ms. Abilities America next year. Doubt me? You shouldn’t. Her family and close friends make up the board and judging panel of this new pageant.

    Take off the crowns Elizabeth. You are not that special!!! The truth needs to be heard!

    • Whoever you are pageant queen, you need to stop and stop now. If my Doctor did not think I needed the wheelchair, if Social Security did not think I needed the motorized chair, and if I was not going through as much pain and suffering as I would not be where I am today. I had many individuals who stepped in for me because of the individuals who did not show up. I also did a terrific job in starting the Oklahoma pageant where it had no money at all.. all the money came from my pocket book. and I had to give allot of money. As far as who makes up the board that has not yet been decided. It is time for you to reveal who you are, and allow the truth to be known. See I dont hide behind personnas like you are . Why dont you tell the truth?

    • Shelly says:

      Elizabeth has a heart of gold for “people with disabilities”. Elizabeth is trying to make a difference! If it takes a “title” to get people to listen, then so be it!! Let’s just be nice and start working together!! It will take many working toward the same goal to make the difference!!

    • LeKetta Hall says:

      Ms. Pageant Queen–
      I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I feel that you and Ms. Reeve have overstepped boundaries. This war of words is not doing either organization any good. It doesn’t matter how any organization was taken over or started, what matters is how the two get along. Both oranizations want candidates, but when people see this type of bickering happening, nobody will be interested. Both organizations are heading for disaster because they are being led by disastrous people. The only way they will succeed is for both to stop fighting and start supporting each other.
      In regards to Ms. Reeve– She does have limited functionality without her chair, but only in small areas. She utilizes her wheelchair and motorized chair 99.9% of the time.
      In regards to Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma America– I was on the board for this organization. Ms. Reeve did not leave the Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma America organization in a poor manner. In fact, during the time she was coordinator, she funded the pageants with her own money, and her board used money of their own without complaining or asking for reimbursement. As to the new organization, Ms. Abilities America, there is no board as of yet. Family members have been asked to join, but they have all said NO Thank You. The people who are involved in setting up this new organization are meeting and working on setting up a board that will consist of community members.
      In regards to Service Animals— Service Animals can come from anywhere: They can come from the pound, the Wal-mart parking lot, or even from a professional breeder. It doesn’t matter where. It also doesn’t matter how they are trained: Self-trained or Professionally. Self-trained dogs are trained specifically for one person, whereas professionally trained dogs have a wide spectrum of training until they are paired with an individual. In fact, professionally trained service dogs go through 3-4 training homes/stages before they are paired with an individual. Service Animals are not required to wear an orange vest, however, it helps the public to recognize that the animal is working. Granted, they can be bought on ebay, but they can be ordered from other places, or even homemade. Nobody knows exactly how professionally trained dogs are trained, but I can guarantee that the training is close to those that are Self-trained. Muzzling a service animal or using a shock collar are part of training. In fact, the muzzle is used to not only protect the public, but to also protect the service animal in those chances that a child or adult surprises the animal without warning.
      I hope and pray that both organizations will see the light and come to their senses before anything happens that causes them to fail. As for the Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma America organization, acting like this is doing nothing but causing embarrassment for the National Ms. Wheelchair America, and, knowing most of the members on that board, they will not stand by and watch this happen. They will take steps to ensure the reputation and morality of the program is upheld. I think that you and Ms. Reeve need to cease and desist all war of words, and mutually work together to keep all these programs on the road to success. This will be posted and sent to the Ms. Wheelchair America Board and the Executive Director of Ms. Wheelchair America.

    • Judy says:

      As past president of Ms. Wheelchair America, I want to congratulate Elizabeth Reeve for all the time and effort she put into the Oklahoma program. She was a dedicated state coordinator for Oklahoma and cares very much about advocating for people with disabilities.

  2. U.S. Department of Justice
    Civil Rights Division
    Disability Rights Section


    1. Q: What are the laws that apply to my business?

    A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

    2. Q: What is a service animal?

    A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

    Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

    _ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

    _ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

    _ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

    A service animal is not a pet.

    3. Q: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

    A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

    4. Q: What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

    A: The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

    5. Q: I have always had a clearly posted “no pets” policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?

    A: Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your “no pets” policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your “no pets” policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

    6. Q: My county health department has told me that only a guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those regulations, am I violating the ADA?

    A: Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of service animal on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws. The ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations.

    7. Q: Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals into my business?

    A: No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel’s policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

    8. Q: I operate a private taxicab and I don’t want animals in my taxi; they smell, shed hair and sometimes have “accidents.” Am I violating the ADA if I refuse to pick up someone with a service animal?

    A: Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.

    9. Q: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

    A: No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.

    10. Q: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

    A: You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

    Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

    11. Q: Can I exclude an animal that doesn’t really seem dangerous but is disruptive to my business?

    A: There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal–that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.

    If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

    July 1996
    Reproduction of this document is encouraged.