After five years and a total of 500 wheelchairs donated, the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD) and SPAR Eastern Cape continued their drive to assist those in need yesterday.
The SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday campaign got under way at SUPERSPAR Gelvandale as APD began their ambitious objective of raising funds for 150 wheelchairs.
“For most people mobility comes as naturally as breathing and you don’t even give it a second thought,” said SPAR EC sponsorship controller Roseann Shadrach.
“Yet, for many of our citizens, the importance of having ‘wheels’ is pivotal to their existence.”
She said SPAR EC and APD had worked with diligence and enthusiasm towards this goal in Nelson Mandela Bay over the past five years.
After raising funds for a record total of 120 wheelchairs last year, APD executive director Brian Bezuidenhout said they were fully motivated to bump up the awareness campaign.
The main theme of the initiative, he said, was to place able-bodied people in wheelchairs for four-hour stints to demonstrate in the most practical way possible the challenges faced by those with disabilities.
“We will continue to keep the idea simple but effective,” said Bezuidenhout.
“So we thought what better way to raise awareness and funds and to turn the tables on traditional thinking by giving able-bodied people some insight and perspective into our everyday lives.
“This way the leaders in the public and private sectors gain deeper insight into our obstacles and can provide opportunities at the same time.”
Sumaiyah Abrahams from Continental Tyres and Fatima Khan of the Mazars accounting firm soon discovered what Bezuidenhout meant.
“I just completed the first task, reaching for a bottle of water,” said Abrahams. “It was really hard because it was on the top shelf and you can’t even reach the second shelf.
“You don’t realise how tough it is for the people in the wheelchairs to get around and do their daily tasks so I do appreciate what we have.”
Khan said the penny had also dropped immediately for her.
“I’m not expecting an easy day. This is an eye-opener for me in many aspects because we take so much for granted.”
Bezuidenhout said there were over 100 000 people with disabilities living in Nelson Mandela Bay, many of whom needed assistance in various ways.
He said the organisation had also targeted 120 local business and public sector participants to donate R5 000 each as part of the initiative, which would ultimately translate into 150 wheelchairs.
Shadrach said their support of Wheelchair Wednesday was central to the company’s philosophy.
“We are really passionate about caring for our community and Wheelchair Wednesday truly epitomises that aspect.”
She said representatives from participating companies would spend four hours in a wheelchair every Wednesday until September 7 to better understand the accessibility challenges faced by people with disabilities.
“These chairs will eventually be donated to the really needy who have no other means of getting around.”
Bezuidenhout paid tribute to SPAR’s involvement.
“It is with much gratitude that we acknowledge the financial assistance of SPAR and their continued support of this project. We would also like to thank our other sponsors.”