Overstrand Association for Persons with Disabilities (OAPD) recently launched a Wheelchair Wednesday initiative with the express aim of challenging organisations and decision-makers to ride in the tracks of a wheelchair user. It is a creative way in which to focus attention on the physical challenges facing wheelchair users in their everyday life, particularly in the workplace. 

The project serves three important purposes, i.e. to raise awareness, encourage community support and improve accessibility for those who are wheelchair bound.  Underscoring that is the mindfulness of local structures, businesses and the public to simple matters like the importance of reserving Disabled Parking Bays for mobility impaired people.

The Overstrand Municipality remains committed to serving all its people responsibly and effectively and therefore had no hesitation in partnering with OAPD in identifying ways in which to establish greater inclusion for people with disabilities in the organisation.

Overstrand Deputy Mayor, Dudley Coetzee and Cllr Grant Cohen, along with a few officials of the Hermanus and Kleinmond offices respectively, were the first to kickstart the project on Wednesday, 10 May 2017

in an attempt to better understand the real-life trials faced by the disabled.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Councillor Coetzee, took up the gauntlet set to him by Desiree Gelderblom, a social worker at OAPD, to spend four hours in a wheelchair whilst going about his daily tasks.

Picture: The ramp at the Operational Services office in Kleinmond proves a real challenge for Overstrand’s Cllr Grant Cohen and Principal Clerk, Dencil Arendse.

Deputy Mayor Coetzee urged local businesses and individuals to get on board and also undergo the four-hour experience  so that they too can have an understanding of the difficulties that those affected with disabilities face in their day-to-day existences. “We want the whole community to be involved in this campaign and to support this year’s Wheelchair Wednesday during the month of May”, he added.

The programme included visits to various municipal buildings, and other premises in the area, to see how viable they are for wheelchair users. “This has been a real eye-opener for me.  I am now more appreciative of some of the restrictions disabled people face. Just one example is negotiating ramps and entrances into buildings which is a huge strain on the arms,” said Cohen of the encounter.

According to Rosina McClean, an administrator at OAPD, another problem often conveyed to them by mobility impaired folk is the lack of access to public transport such as taxis.  Keen to put this to the test, Cllr Cohen approached local taxi owner Hazel Thomas, who advised that even though she has not as yet transported any wheelchair users, her vehicles are adequately equipped to do so.

“While this exercise may have proved rather gruelling, it is good in that it has provided a platform for the municipality to engage in discussions around any shortcomings identified with the view to ensuring our premises become more wheelchair friendly,” concluded Cohen.

IT IS ALL ABOUT RAISING AWARENESS  - Elaborating on the challenges faced by the disabled, Deputy Mayor Dudley Coetzee added “When it is simple to step on and off of curbs and sidewalks, walk up and down steps and use public restrooms, then it is easy to forget that an increasing number of our residents have difficulty with activities that are a part of daily life for most of us.” Pictured with him is mayoral committee secretary, Madeleine de Villiers.


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