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Local leaders experience life in a wheelchair

LOCAL community and business leaders received a taste of what it means to be disabled in Jeffreys Bay at Kouga’s first Wheelchair Wednesday challenge last week.

Twenty-two participants, including Mayor Horatio Hendricks and his Mayoral Committee, took part in the programme, which challenged able-bodies persons to complete everyday tasks from the confines of a wheelchair.

“It was an eye-opening experience which none of us will forget and will set the tone for improvements to our region when it comes to wheelchair-accessibility,” said Hendricks.

“I would like to thank APD (the Association for the Physically Disabled) for giving us the opportunity to experience first-hand what it is like for someone in a wheelchair to live and work in Jeffreys Bay.”

Tasks participants had to complete, included shopping, drawing money from an ATM, getting in and out of their cars in parking areas, using disabled toilet facilities and a visit to the beach and their offices.

“Our proudest moment was visiting Dolphin Beach, described by APD as one of the most wheelchair-friendly beaches in South Africa,” the Mayor said.

“The hardest pill to swallow, on the other hand, was realising just how inaccessible the municipality’s offices are to people in wheelchairs.

“Were the Speaker and I disabled, we would not have been able to get to our offices on the top floor of Kouga’s headquarters or chair meetings in the Council chamber.

“We look forward to working with APD to make the municipality more accessible to wheelchair-users.”

Thirty wheelchairs are set to be given to Kouga beneficiaries in October thanks to the funds raised through Wheelchair Wednesday.

APD Kouga spokesperson Jakkie Pieters said the organisation and the municipality’s Special Programmes unit were currently identifying potential beneficiaries, with specific focus on residents from smaller rural communities.

“The wheelchairs are basic entry-level chairs. We, therefore, also need to assess each potential beneficiary’s situation so as to ensure the wheelchair is right for them.”

Pieters said APD considered Kouga’s first Wheelchair Wednesday a great success.

“The main aim was to create awareness and understanding, and I believe we definitely achieved this.

“We would also like to thank the participants for the spirit in which they took to the challenge. There was no cheating. Everyone tried to accomplish everything from the confines of their wheelchairs and provided honest and heartfelt feedback.”

Wheelchair Wednesday was initiated by APD Nelson Mandela Bay six years ago. Almost 700 wheelchairs have been donated to beneficiaries through the programme in addition to funds being raised for the organisation’s work centres for the disabled.

For information, contact Jakkie at 083 376 6764.

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