ADVERTORIAL: Changing the way people see wheelchair users

2015-07-22 06:01


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“THE beauty of this project is that we continue to get reports back from participants confirming the fact that SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday is changing the way people see and think about mobility impaired people, in this case, more specifically people who use wheelchairs,” remarked Brian Bezuidenhout, APD director.

The weekly participants enthusiastically reported back on their experience after spending four hours in a wheelchair, performing certain everyday tasks.

Yolanda du Plooy, who works at an NGO, had the following to say: “It is very difficult to get in and out of a car. My arms are thin with barely any muscle and it was hard for me to lift my body with my arms. It is also difficult to get the chair into your car.”

Dr Sim Toni from the SA Medical association needed a helping hand from his assistant, Marianna Johnstone, to get into his car

“Next I went to the SPAR, Fiveways. It is easily accessible to a wheelchair. Baskets and trolleys were in my way and I had to ask staff or members of the public to move them. I could not reach the bottled water and tried to throw my book at it to get it to fall out of the fridge onto my lap. My helper kept asking me why I did not ask for help, but I am too proud and too stubborn. Fortunately, a friendly staff member came to my rescue and handed me the bottle of water. The tills are easily accessible and I did not have to stretch for anything.”

Du Plooy went on to say, “At the Mount Road police station there were five cars parked in the wheelchair area, of which only two displayed wheel chair stickers.

“I wanted to use the ATM next door, but there was load shedding. Even so, I would not have been able to get up the ramp leading to the ATM. That would have been plain suicide. Doors are difficult, because you must try to push them with one arm and then use the other arm to wheel.”

Yolanda’s attempt to use a public toilet was interesting. “The security guard stopped me and asked if I needed the key for the wheelchair toilets. I said yes, please, and he unlocked and when he saw me battle to get in, he pushed me inside. It is very spacious and there is a hand bar against the wall next to the toilet, which is essential. Once I was done I was worried that I would not be able to get out again. At least I could WhatsApp my friend if need be. I put my back against the door and proceeded to reverse, basically ramming the door to get it to open. Though with my body weight, that does not amount to much. Fortunately the door opened slightly and I pushed with all my might with my right arm to get the door to open wider. And then the security guard came and I was relieved, because he opened the door further and I managed to get out,” Yolanda said.

The Wheelchair Wednesday campaign stretches over the five Wednesdays in July and will see 120 teams participating. The four-hour challenge also results in the wheelchairs used by the participants being handed over to needy beneficiaries. This will happen at the gala handover ceremony at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on August 5.

The funds raised are used in the many projects that APD Nelson Mandela Bay runs in the city.

Anyone interested in taking part can contact Marie Sin Hidge at 084 586 7704. Visit the Wheelchair Wednesday Facebook Page for more exciting stories.

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