Spend four hours in a wheelchair, change a life

AFTER 5 years, Spar Wheelchair Wednesday will have seen a total of 500 Wheelchairs handed over to needy people and in excess of R1.9m raised, for people living with disabilities.

The power of wheels is often under-appreciated. Daily people rely on wheels – two or four – for all kinds of mobility needs, but mostly for getting from A to B. But just imagine what it is like spending everyday reliant on a tool, like a wheelchair, that is completely central to one’s existence and the space and place challenges that come with it.

This exercise of imagination is the motive behind the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD) fundraising and awareness initiative, dubbed Spar Wheelchair Wednesday.

“The APD will continue to keep the idea simple but effective,” said Brian Bezuidenhout, APD Executive Director. “So we thought, what better way to raise awareness, funds and turn the tables on traditional thinking about people with physical disabilities than to give able bodied people some insight and perspective into our everyday lives.

“The method? Getting company heads, chief executives, and city leaders in general to pledge to spend four hours in a wheelchair every Wednesday in August. This way our leadership from the public and private sectors gains deeper insight into our obstacles and can provide opportunities at the same time.”

With over 100 000 people with disabilities living in Nelson Mandela Bay, this is a well-needed perspective, added Bezuidenhout.

The APD aims to get 120 local high-flyers to come on board. These business and public sector participants each donate R5000 to take part in Spar Wheelchair Wednesday, and these donations will ultimately translate into 120 wheelchairs which will go to needy beneficiaries. The 5 years of the initiative’s existence will see a total of 500 needy people receiving wheelchairs.

“One of the major factors that prohibit persons with disabilities from integrating and functioning normally within society is the issue of reasonable accommodation,” Bezuidenhout explained. “It is to this end that we have devised this awareness campaign. The SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday initiative will once again challenge the mindset of the decision-makers within society and help to bring about an unprecedented paradigm shift in the way persons with disabilities are treated.”

The initiative has the support of naming sponsor SPAR, which has contributed “extensively” to the campaign. “It is with much gratitude that we acknowledge the financial assistance of SPAR for their continued assistance in sustaining the project. We also acknowledge the assistance of our other sponsors who have come on board,” added Bezuidenhout.

August 10, being week 1 of the campaign, will see 25 eager participants gather at the a Spar store for the start of their 4-hour challenge. “To ensure that the participants get the maximum effect we will be strapping their feet together,” said Bezuidenhout.

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