Wheelchair Wednesday back in full swing

EIGHT hundred and eighteen. That’s the number of wheelchairs handed over to needy Nelson Mandela Bay residents in the last seven years.

Wheelchair Wednesday is an initiative launched by APD Nelson Mandela Bay seven years ago.

The aim is to motivate local business and community leaders to spend four hours in a wheelchair carrying out basic everyday tasks.

The initiative assists to increase awareness and consequent improvement in matters pertaining to mobility impaired people.

Since inception in 2011, 1 300 Nelson Mandela Bay participants have spent four hours in a wheelchair on one of the Wednesdays in August.

Wednesday, August 8, was no different.

Twenty warmly dressed participants gathered at owners Brett and Mandy Muzzell’s Spar in Linton Grange to be placed in a wheelchair with ankles firmly strapped together to receive their starting orders before embarking on their four-hour journey.

Typical tasks include visiting public facilities such as the post office, police station, hospitals, supermarkets, banks, ATMs and coffee shops with the objective of testing the facilities as far as “wheelchair friendliness” goes.

Participants then report back their findings to APD who then use the feedback to improve accessibility within the city.

Once the four-hour journey is completed, the wheelchair that the paying participant used is handed over to a carefully assessed needy person.

Brett Muzzell, one of the participants, who also participated in the opening round of Wheelchair Wednesday in 2011, had this to say:

“The experience of spending time in a wheelchair is always a humbling one.

“You gain a true perspective of the challenges faced by physically disabled people just to complete every day ‘normal’ tasks.

“Nothing is easily accomplished, and patience is key. Every task takes that much longer to complete. Retrospectively compared to my first four hours in a wheelchair during 2011, it appears that things have generally improved within our city and there seems to be a better awareness to the needs of handicapped people.

“Well done to the team at the APD for getting this message across and getting people and organisations to be more aware of the challenges and requirements necessary to assist the physically disabled.”

Wheelchair Wednesday takes place on all the Wednesdays in August and Brian Bezuidenhout can be contacted at 041 484 5426 or brian.bezuidenhout@apdnmb.org.za for more information.