The Spar Wheelchair Wednesday event is an initiative developed by the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD’s). The July 2015 event marked the 4th year of the event in Nelson Mandela Bay with over 250 wheelchairs donated over that time. Their aim for 2015 was 120 wheelchairs. To assist in this endeavour Continental Tyre signed up 6 teams to participate in the event.
What started off as a corporate exercise soon awakened the teams to the reality persons with disabilities face on a daily basis. “We attended the day, thinking we know what to expect, but we soon realised we were in for a major surprise. The lack of accessibility for people in wheelchairs became very frustrating. After being in the eye of the public, the saying ‘it is just my legs, not my brain’ became an overwhelming feeling,” reflected Elize Woods Franchise Operations Manager, a participant on the Continental team.
The power of wheels is often underappreciated. 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 Person’s with Physical Disabilities (APD’s) fundraising and awareness initiative, dubbed 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 July 2015. 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 awareness campaign definitely challenged the Continental participants, who spend part of their four hours at the Contiental head office. “I do not believe there is one participant who left this exercise without a new appreciation and awakened mindset to the challenges faced by persons in Wheelchairs. Things never considered before such a hobble in the road, became a mammoth task to get over” added Jiminy-Ann Bosman, Pr and Communications Manager at Continental Tyre. “We will definitely be sharing the feedback and experience with our colleagues to encourage awareness and to effect positive change”.
To offer support and donations, the public can contact the APD on 041 4845426