WEEK 3 of Spar Wheelchair Wednesday once again saw 50 local “able-bodied” people from various businesses within Nelson Mandela Bay spend 4 hours in a wheelchair experien-cing a typical day as a wheelchair user.
“We accept the fact that a physical disability is within reach of everyone, and for that reason we at Port Elizabeth International Airport believe that we should ensure maximum universal accessibility for everyone using our airport facilities and that is the reason why we support the Wheelchair Wednesday initiative,” said Acting Manager of Port Elizabeth International Airport, Anthony Groom.
There was a sudden look of panic as the participants took to their wheelchairs at the Fig Tree Spar which was the starting point for Week 3 of the Wheelchair Challenge. They were carefully briefed by the team from Asso-ciation for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Nelson Mandela Bay regarding their specific tasks which were to be performed during the 4 hours that lay ahead.
Simple everyday activities like shopping in a supermarket, using public institutions such as the post office and the police station and trying out public facilities like parking bays and ablutions were just a few of the tasks on the list that they have received before starting out. Participants were requested to report back regarding their 4 hours, featuring both good and bad experiences.
This information will then be used by APD to encourage change where necessary. “We have come a long way since the inception of the project in 2012,” said Brian Bezuidenhout, Executive Director of the project initiators, APD.
“Attention to detail on matters of accessibility by major retailers and shopping mall developers is rapidly making Port Elizabeth user friendly for mobility impaired people,” Bezuidenhout added.
Participants pay a fee to participate. The funds are then used to purchase a wheelchair which is handed over to a person in need.
This year 130 wheelchairs, generated from the Spar Wheelchair Wednesday project, will be donated to beneficiaries at the Handover Ceremony to be held at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on September 20. During the 5 years of the projects existence 500 wheelchairs have been handed over to Nelson Mandela Bay residents.
“The four hours I’ve done today were incredibly challenging. My eyes have been opened to the world of those in wheelchairs and I pray that we’re able to actually bring awareness to what it is we can do to help make their lives a little bit easier,” said Shereez Govender of Algoa FM.