My four hours in a wheelchair

2019-08-28 06:02
The wheelchair-friendly public toilet at Sunridge Village.

The wheelchair-friendly public toilet at Sunridge Village.

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SPENDING four hours in a wheelchair opened my eyes to the world in new ways. I have discovered that being trapped in a wheelchair for only a few hours, shifted my entire outlook on life.

This experience came for me recently when I simulated a disability to get a first-person perspective of what it is like to have to live with physical challenges.

The PE Express and Die Burger were invited to participate in the annual SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday campaign. They provided me with a wheelchair, which will be donated to disabled residents in the Bay.

Held in August each year, the initiative is running for the eighth time in 2019 and organisers, The Association for the Physically Disabled (APD), are targeting a mark of 1 000 wheelchairs to have been donated to those in need since its inception in 2012.

My fellow reporter, Anika de Beer, accompanied me to various locations as we had been tasked to complete a list of exercises.

Our first stop was at Sunridge Village in Sunridge Park. Looking forward to spending the few hours in a wheelchair at first, immediately changed the moment my legs were strapped in the wheelchair.

The first hurdle was trying to get into the car as we often found no place to park. Finding a disabled parking was not an easy task.

The cars in the parking bays were jammed together too closely for me to get the chair out.

Many non-disabled drivers used the spaces, resulting in Anika having to park in a normal parking bay.

I had conflicting feelings because although I was not literally handicapped and could step out of the chair at any moment, I began to feel a loss of my independence.

Wet with perspiration, I wrestled with the wheelchair (with Anika’s assistance) from the back seat to the pavement, opened the chair, lowered a cushion onto it and finally sat in the chair. That was the easy part.

Although Sunridge Village is wheelchair-friendly, I struggled to complete my tasks, for instance, using an ATM and a public toilet. After completing the tasks at Sunridge Village, I went back to the office. My colleagues helped me around the building, and after a while, I noticed that the building is very wheelchair-accessible.

At the end of the day my arm muscles throbbed from having to push my own weight around the majority of the day while my legs were stiff from not being active.

At the end of the simulation, I was grateful for being able to walk and go places without needing any assistance.

The Wheelchair Wednesday experience made me realise that the world is not fully accessible to those with physical challenges and more needs to be done to accommodate them.

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