We’ve all heard the expression “to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” but this past month at Anderson High School in Austin, TX, students and faculty were given a very unique opportunity to “roll a mile in someone else’s wheels” through the Wheelchair Challenge. For one school day, participants committed to spending the day in a wheelchair. (A $20 donation was required to nominate a participant or self-volunteer. Those people nominated had the choice to participate or “buy out” for another $20.) The purpose of this program is two-fold: one, to raise awareness about disabilities, and two, to raise money to buy powered doors for our older, not-always-wheelchair-friendly public school. Sounds simple enough, right?
Here are a few things that our daughter learned from her Wheelchair Challenge:
- When you are at a different level physically (sitting, not standing), you are often unintentionally ignored and left out of the conversation.
- Trying to open and enter through a traditional outside door while staying seated in a wheelchair is virtually impossible by yourself (even when the door is officially not heavy enough to have an ADA mandated power opener.)
- Arms and backs get tired or strained, and hands can blister quickly when self-propelling a wheelchair…”sitting” all day is much harder than being mobile.
- With minor modifications and supportive teachers, wheelchair-bound students can be easily included in “extras” like pep rallies.
- Bias/stigma against wheelchairs and disabilities still exists to the extent that many people didn’t take advantage of this unique opportunity purely because they didn’t want to feel or seem “weak” to their peers.
Many thanks to Archer Hadley, the truly inspirational young man behind the Wheelchair Challenge. Follow this link to watch his brief video story!
BOTTOM LINE: OPEN DOORS – figuratively and literally, for those who are differently abled, and help expand the wheelchair challenge to YOUR community!