In a year when many major events were derailed, SPAR Eastern Cape and the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities in Nelson Mandela Bay reaffirmed their commitment to the Wheelchair Wednesday campaign yesterday.
With the official launch at SUPERSPAR Bluewater Bay signalling the start of the ninth year of the initiative, the APD are now well on target to donate their 1 200th wheelchair.
Each Wednesday during the month of the campaign volunteers from various walks of life are confined to a wheelchair for four hours to experience what those with mobility difficulties confront every day.
The project, managed by APD and supported by SPAR EC, also raises awareness of the need for businesses in the metro and beyond to ensure their facilities provide easy access for those who are in wheelchairs.
This year Wheelchair Wednesday will link up with the Amputee Support Group in Nelson Mandela Bay to include the Collect-a-Crutch drive, aimed at the collection of walking aids for people who cannot afford them.
APD chief executive Cecilia Fourie said they were thrilled to get Wheelchair Wednesday rolling after the Covid-19 pandemic threatened to scupper the annual event. Normally held in August, this year’s campaign was pushed out by two months.
“We want to thank our sponsors SPAR and the Network of Caring for their wheelchair donation as they have believed in us and made this event possible through very uncertain times,” she said.
“It is APD’s 80th anniversary this year and we are proud to say we have achieved so much in that time. But it’s something we cannot do on our own.”
Fourie said the campaign also played a massive role in raising awareness of the difficulties people in wheelchairs faced on a daily basis.
“It’s not only about helping those in need, but also it changes the lives of able-bodied people to better understand the life of a disabled person.
“Experiencing what a disabled person goes through makes us more sensitive to their requirements as they strive to lead a normal life.
“Also, when you consider that the waiting period for a government-sponsored wheelchair is two to three years, you realise what a big difference this event makes to those in need.”
The campaign will extend its reach further this year via the partnership with the Amputee Support Group, headed by Brian Paddey.
The aim of the organisation, Paddey said, was to offer counselling and material support to amputees and their families.
“A few years ago we got involved with Livingstone Hospital, which had a tremendous shortage of walking aids,” he said. “So we started collecting used crutches, walkers or any kind of aid which assisted with mobility.
“What happens is that people may have an injury which requires a moon boot or a crutch, but when they have recovered those items often just gather dust in the garage.
“You may think these no longer have any value but there is a massive need for walking aids for people who may not have medical aid and cannot afford those items.
“We’ve had situations at Livingstone where people could not be discharged because there were no funds for them to get a crutch to make them mobile.
“That is where we come in, by collecting these items and having them refurbished in the Livingstone workshop if necessary.”
He said anyone interested in donating could check their Facebook page or call him on 083 251 0624.
SPAR EC sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton said they were thrilled to introduce this angle to the regular campaign.
“We would like to welcome Brian and his team on board,” he said. “We will be placing containers at various SPAR stores at which people can donate these walking aids.”
He also acknowledged the day’s participants and APD for their commitment to the cause.
“You are all very brave people and you will go through a special and humbling experience.
“Your life will change from what you discover today and you will also be making a difference to someone else’s life, so we really thank you for giving up your time to do this.”
He added that the APD were “an amazing group with so much passion to make the lives of other people better”.
“They embody the SPAR principles of entrepreneurship, passion, excellence and the aim to lead a healthier lifestyle. We are proud to be associated with them and this very special initiative.”