A Nashville, Tennessee teen has challenged lawmakers to spend a day in a wheelchair and they have accepted that challenge. The eighth-grader told lawmakers that if they accept his challenge, they'd learn a life lesson.
Alex Johnson sat in a hallway with lawmakers moments before his speech and challenged them to spend a day in a wheelchair as he does. Johnson attends Friendship Christian School in Lebanon.
Johnson has a form of skeletal dysplasia that affects the growth of bones and cartilage. He has had to use a wheelchair since second grade.
"I have no experience with a wheelchair," said Rep. Clark Boyd, who helped organize the bipartisan event. He says that even in a building that is handicap accessible, some of the doors can be very heavy for someone in a wheelchair. He even admitted that opening a refrigerator door was difficult. "Doors seem to be a pretty big challenge," He said.
Johnson says his goal is to have the reps see those challenges and see the need for more wheelchair accessibility. “They can influence things," he said, "They can help people achieve more independence.” He says he could talk for hours about the difficulties he faces daily but you don't know or won't understand until you sit in the chair. He wanted lawmakers to spend a day in his shoes.
The Permobil Foundation supplied the wheelchairs. The lawmakers used them to attend meetings, work at their desks and do other activities. Boyd said that the experience was eye-opening and that he had no idea how frustrating things can get while traveling around in a wheelchair.
Alex Johnson said he hopes the experience will inspire the lawmakers to help make the world more accessible for those with special needs and who are wheelchair-bound.
"Together, we can change the world one challenge at a time," Alex said.
Image credit: https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/24/us/lawmakers-wheelchair-challenge-trnd/index.html