Steve Wilkinson, born with Spinal Bifida in 1953, is the founder of International Wheelchair Day. Steve is affectionately known as Wheelchair Steve. In 2008, he was researching on Google, to find out if there was a nationally recognized day for the rights of wheelchair users, and those with mobility issues. As it turned out, there wasn’t one. Not yet, anyway.
Steve lives in Adelaide, South Australia. In 2008, he contacted government officials in Australia who worked with him to get this going. Then the website, www.internationalwheelchairday.com was launched. Steve picked March 1 because it is the birthday of his late mother, Joyce Wilkinson, who helped him cope with the challenges of Spinal Bifida. The first International Wheelchair Day was held on March 1, 2008.
Steve reported that in 2008, the World Health Organization estimated that 70 million people needed wheelchairs. Less than half of them had one. They got around by pulling themselves along, and through the help of others. They needed wheelchairs for their independence.
Steve met with Helen Edwards in 2012. Together they launched the a project for New Guinea where they give wheelchairs to those iving in poverty. They are giving people better quality wheelchairs than the ones they have available.
It is critical that those who need wheelchairs and can’t afford them receive chairs that are right for them. Often, organizations that are giving wheelchairs away give the cheapest ones available in an effort to save money. But if the chair is not a good fit for the person receiving it, it can make their situation worse. For this reason, Steve and his organization work toward bettering people's lives through matching them with higher quality chairs.
Every March 1st, the UK invites able-bodied volunteers to go around for the entire day in wheelchairs. Many of the people who did this reported how differently they were treated in the chair, even from their own friends and family. They said that they felt as if people where talking to the user of a wheelchair, instead of merely a person. They reported feeling awkward. Their statements lend themselves toward achieving the goal of teaching people to identify with a person before their disability.
Another greater purpose of Internal Wheelchair Day is that participants celebrate the positive impacts that wheelchairs have on their lives. With chairs that are the right fit, these individuals re-gain some independence. It is also a day that we all come together and celebrate how far we've come in providing accessibility for those with wheelchairs. It’s even a day to consider giving one to those who need them, but can’t afford one.
Enjoy the video below.
The pic is compliments from the International Wheelchair Day Organization. Please vote and comment. I love comments.