PE Pearls Ladies Circle No. 19 spent 4 hours in a wheelchair on Wednesday 14th October 2020 as part of the Wheelchair Wednesday initiative hosted annually by the Association for the Physically Disabled (APD) to create awareness for those with disabilities.
PE Pearls LC19 started off at Sunridge Spar with the official “Roll-Out”. After doing some shopping at Baywest Mall, the Kabega Park Police Station and Postnet Metlife Mall were visited for stamps on the Task Sheet. Money was also drawn from an ATM and coffee enjoyed at Metlife Mall Wimpy as part of the tasks set out for participants to complete while in the wheelchair. After visiting various shopping outlets and a trip to Linton Grange Spar, it was more than 4 hours spent in the wheelchair.
Upon returning the wheelchair to APD at their Workshop in Paterson Road, Sydenham, it was with great delight that we also handed over some much needed cleaning products to them. It ended the unforgettable experience.
PE Pearls LC19 Chairlady, Sonel Lindeque, reports on the experience below:
Can you outline how you became involved in Wheelchair Wednesday?
I have known Brian Bezuidenhout, the Immediate Past Executive Director, since 2011, when I moved to Port Elizabeth and have been involved in various aspects of APD. In 2019, through fundraising initiatives, PE Pearls Ladies Circle No. 19 paid the participation fee together with the Dias Quilters’ Guild, but did not partake in the Roll-out. This year we as PE Pearls Ladies Circle No. 19 however, paid the whole of the participation fee and spent the time in the Wheelchair.
Can you describe your thoughts prior to the exercise?
I think because I have been actively involved with charity since 2000, I kind of knew what the disabled have to go through, so mentally I was sort of prepared for the realities of the “difficulties” and “restrictions” involved.
Who assisted you with the exercise?
Chantal Myburgh and I both wanted to spend time in the wheelchair and assist, so it was a mutual agreement to rotate as needed.
Can you describe some of the toughest challenges you faced during the exercise?
One cannot do monthly shopping like an abled body. You just cannot fill a trolley and push it through a shop. You constantly need an assistant, especially for shopping, because you will only be able to buy products within arms-length, unless someone escorts you throughout the whole shop. You are vulnerable at all times. Upper body strength is painful if you do not have it. You need gloves to protect your hands, because a wheelchair is not always soft on the hands. If you are able to drive, you still need an assistant to load and offload your wheelchair.
They say four hours in a wheelchair can change your life. Can you talk about that?
Even though you “think” you can imagine what a wheelchair bound person has to deal, once you have spent the time in the wheelchair you actually realize that you did not truly grasp the whole impact that it has in your life.
What sort of feeling did it leave you with the difficulties those in wheelchairs face daily?
I think one develops respect for those who fight the fight as a disabled person. It is really not easy and even though you have to deal with your own disability, you also have to deal with other’s inability to accommodate your disability, or the lack of knowledge towards accommodating you. Thanks to APD’s Wheelchair Wednesday, our experience is utilized to work with the community to raise awareness as to the ways in which flaws towards the disabled in society can be improved, and how their lives can be improved “one roll at a time”.
Would you recommend your friends/colleagues go through the exercise?
Definitely! It opens your eyes to what is going on in society. I for one pray that I never have to be in such a permanent position. You truly take for granted what you are blessed with being able-bodied.
We have a new found respect for those who have to spend their lives in a wheelchair. The amount of upper body strength needed for this daily way of living is something no one can fully comprehend until placed in this situation, as well as patience, perseverance and a partner to assist. This is truly an eye opener.