If raising awareness about people with disabilities is the driving force behind the SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday campaign, it succeeded beyond dispute with a significant convert yesterday.
The final week of the 2016 campaign, run in conjunction with the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD), saw Mr South Africa Armand du Plessis throw his weight behind the initiative.
After four hours in a wheelchair at SPAR Sherwood he came away with a vastly enhanced view of the challenges which faced the disabled.
“In fact, the experience sent a message to me to be a more helpful and friendlier shopper when coming across people in wheelchairs,” he said when asked what message the campaign sent to the public.
The Johannesburg resident admitted he had not previously offered to help wheelchair shoppers because they “all look so fine and as if they are in control”.
“For me, that will definitely change,” he vowed. “I will want to give them a helping hand and support them because the experience was quite challenging.”
Du Plessis said he first learnt of the campaign on social media and the reality had opened his eyes “quite a bit”.
He said the policy of the Mr South Africa initiative was to help the community.
“We reach out to those who are less fortunate and this has been the ideal opportunity to continue doing that.
“Spending time in a wheelchair made me feel much more grateful and blessed for what I have in life.
“Everyone has their problems, but my challenges don’t come close to the challenges faced by those in wheelchairs and it has impacted my thinking a lot.”
Roseann Shadrach, the retailer’s promotions and advertising controller, was delighted with the final day of the campaign.
“It’s been an incredible end to the campaign and to have Mr South Africa participating in the initiative just gives it more exposure.
“It has been another great project and we are blessed to be in a position where we can provide mobility to people with disabilities.”
The handover of wheelchairs bought through funds raised by the campaign will take place on September 20.