The Spar Wheelchair Wednesday initiative has set itself the objectives of spreading awareness among the youth and increasing the overall donation to more than 1 000 wheelchairs during its annual August campaign. Set up by the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD) and backed by Spar Eastern Cape, the project is now in its ninth year.
Launched at the beginning of August at Spar Acres in Port Elizabeth, Wheelchair Wednesday focuses on creating more awareness around the needs of people with disabilities while generating funds to provide wheelchairs for mobility-impaired citizens.
“In terms of the youth aspect, we are delighted to have pupils from Collegiate Girls’ High with us at the launch,” says APD chairman Garth van Niekerk. This is the second year this school is participating, and eight pupils will go through the programme by spending an hour in a wheelchair.
“On top of that, three other schools are joining the programme, namely Grey High, Pearson and Lawson Brown. Our emphasis is on trying to get more youth involved, which is important as they are the leaders of tomorrow,” Van Niekerk says. “The younger they can get this experience, the better.”
In addition, the schools would be donating wheelchairs to the initiative and, according to Van Niekerk, they were confident of topping the 1 000-mark by the end of August.
“Having raised funds for 800 wheelchairs by last year, our aim is to get to four figures in 2019. I have no doubt we will achieve that,” he adds.
Companies and schools will support the campaign this year by having volunteers spend four hours in a wheelchair to experience the difficulties faced by wheelchair users daily. With a helper at their side, each volunteer will be required to execute everyday tasks at different venues in the city.
Van Niekerk says the initiative has already proved a success. “Aside from the people who are learning about the difficulties of operating from a wheelchair, there has been a definite increase in awareness among businesses in the city. Things such as wider aisles and better accessibility for wheelchair-users have become apparent in some centres as companies take this more seriously.”
Another important element is the feedback they received from the volunteers throughout the month of August so far.
“We use this information to provide awareness training to companies and that is another successful part of the overall initiative. Our motto is ‘four hours in a wheelchair and you can change somebody’s life’, and that works in two ways. It changes your life because you realise the difficulties, while the awareness created and funds generated help those who have mobility problems,” Van Niekerk concludes.