Walnut Creek woman crowned Ms. Wheelchair America
By Lou Fancher
After being crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2016 earlier this month, Walnut Creek's Alette Coble-Temple is preparing to take her PRIDE (Parental Rights Include Disability Equality) platform nationwide by propelling her wheelchair up steep inclines in all 50 states.
Coble-Temple delivered a two-minute speech on the subject of equality and parental rights to win the pageant Aug. 1 in Des Moines, Iowa.
She said her ability to advocate on multiple issues and combine professional and personal achievements within disabled and able-bodied communities were pivotal factors in her success.
"I was told that I'm able to combine data with personal stories," she said. "Not just my story, but others' stories that make it real. To create legislative changes, legislators need facts, personal stories and recommended solutions."
Ms. Wheelchair America President Shelly Loose says Coble-Temple is "a real go-getter" and is looking forward to how she will use her title. "She's going to be a great spokesperson," she said. "The competition is about teaching people they can speak up for their own rights."
Coble-Temple, 45, was given a 10 percent chance of survival at birth. She won a battle for mainstream entry in the Los Altos School District and was Los Altos High School's first wheelchair-using graduate. She is a psychology professor at JFK University and an evaluator for the California parole board.
Coble-Temple is married to Robert Temple and the mother of 11-year-old Kathryn Taylor Temple, whom she and her husband fought to adopt and raise. After rejection from 20 adoption agencies
that, she said, told her she was "too disabled to be a mom," she has worked to reform California's laws pertaining to parental rights.
"With my platform, I want to help to create legislative changes that eliminate the years of using disability as a reason to remove a child from its home," she said.
Loose has felt the impact of the problem directly. "When I had my daughter -- my husband's disabled also -- the nurse decided there was no way we could take care of our child and sent her (temporarily) to protective services. That was 18 years ago, but Coble-Temple's speech brought back memories and how those things shouldn't happen."
According to the Ms. Wheelchair America organization, the winner of the five-day competition is "the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities."
"I'm the first winner to have a speech impediment and only the second with cerebral palsy in the history of the pageant," Coble-Temple said. "It's a big deal because oftentimes people with speech impediments don't go as far.
"During the competition, I had people make comments. They said I shouldn't be a national spokesperson. I've been on TV at a national level, and guess what? They can capture what I say. They can use closed-caption. There's a way to do it; people just don't think about it."
Coble-Temple will fundraise to visit all 50 states, targeting as recipients of her message legislators, rehabilitation workers, Rotary Club members, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, school populations, corporations and anyone else.
"With the aging population, disabled people are the greatest minority, and they will become the majority," she said. "What better way to speak to that population than by sponsoring someone with a disability?
"I was able to cast a wide net as Ms. California. I've no doubt I can do it as Ms. America," she said.