During March (National Intellectual Disability Awareness Month), CEOs and Company Directors were challenged to spend one work day in a wheelchair, to create awareness and help raise much needed funds for the special angels at LITTLE EDEN, the majority of whom have physical disabilities along with profound intellectual disability, and depend on their wheelchairs for mobility.
We were thrilled by the support we received from companies such as Discovery Health, Multotec, SBS Tanks, Boake, RCCI, LAPP, KBH, Kargo, RAD_KTM, Reddam, EOH and Epiroc and from 702 DJ, Bongani Bingwa, who spent a weekend in a wheelchair at local shopping mall to help raise awareness and promote the campaign.
Thanks to those who participated for the wonderful feedback.
Miguel Lage of Rad KTM (pictured above) had this to say:
“I had the opportunity to spend the day in a wheelchair on behalf of LITTLE EDEN. It certainly was a humbling experience, which gave me great appreciation and respect for those who do not have the option of exiting the chair at will. It became abundantly clear how important it is to have a wheelchair friendly environment!”
Delayne Gray, CEO of SBS Tanks, sent us this wonderful video of his experience:
Pictured below, Lapp Southern Africa’s CEO, Chad Andrews, spent his day in a wheelchair on Tuesday 16 March.
This is what he had to say:
“What a humbling experience. I have a new respect for those who rely on a wheelchair.
“The first thing I had to get my head around was how much lower I was than everyone else. Carrying a file or a laptop has to be done differently because you need both arms to get around; your lap becomes the place to balance and carry the items to the next meeting.
“I got to understand how disabled (not) friendly our office and warehouse buildings are; this really requires some work. Just the simple task of going to the bathroom wasn’t that easy. Getting through the standard doors and passages was a task all on its own.
“I would challenge a lot more people to take up this opportunity to experience what it would be like to be in a wheelchair all day every day. We are happy to have participated and hope our donation will assist the really good work you and your institution are doing.”
Vincenzo Nicolosi of KBH investments spent his day in a wheelchair on 17 March
After breaking his leg in the past, and using a wheelchair, Vincenzo thought he knew what he was in for. But spending a full day at work in a wheelchair was a completely different story.
From the moment he arrived in the morning and tried to get out of the car and into the office, he realised that their offices weren’t wheelchair friendly. Sitting at his desk doing routine work was fine. But, when he had to move from office to office, and use his arms instead of his legs, he realised that considerable effort was needed. Using the bathroom was another big problem as there was not enough space for the wheelchair to get in and out easily.
“As the day wore on, the fatigue was starting to catch up, and by 3pm I was exhausted,” he said. “I knew it was going to hard, but did not expect it to be this difficult. I realised that we need to cater for wheelchairs at the office. We have just upgraded our premises and plans have been made with ramps and toilets for paraplegics.”
18 March 2021: Linda Blackbeard, CEO of the Randburg Chamber of Commerce & Industry spent her day in a wheelchair.
“This is indeed an experience,” she said. Took me nearly half an hour to get into the office from the car park. Then there was the discomfort of sitting all day at a level lower than the ”should be “ desk height. Going to the loo – impossible – I had to cheat there. There are NO handicap loos in the building. There was not even a handicap parking allocated outside.
“I certainly have a greater respect , more that I already had, for people who rely on wheelchairs. I knew I could get up and walk afterwards. But imagine if you knew you had to use to the chair for ever! That would be a totally different mindset and feelings. My heartfelt respect to all who mange this every day. I salute you. You certainly show many of us up with our poor attitudes and right of expectation. I admire your strength and determination to make it work.
“Seeing Linda’s usual confident self immediately change, when she sat in the chair was very obvious,” added her colleague, Michelle. “I could see her confidence diminish as the day wore on and she had difficulty just getting into the office and moving around to do menial tasks, like setting up a laptop or coming out her office to meet a client.
“When we got outside eventually for a break, she tried to “do it herself” and landed up crashing into the bannister. It was scary and I could see the fear in her eyes, as well as anger and frustration. Seeing Linda struggle made my respect multiply for all people with disabilities and their caregivers, who are the unsung angels too.
“Thank you to Little Eden for giving people this wonderful initiative for people to experience a day in a wheelchair; we at RCCI encourage all business owners and CEO’s to do the same, and share your experience.”
Bulelwa Mhlongo Group Financial Manager at Multotec negotiates her way through a working day from a wheelchair.
“Like everyone else, I thought I understood what people who depend on wheelchairs go through,” Bulelwa said. Spending a work day in a wheelchair opened her eyes to the reality.
“Little things that you do without thinking twice – like making coffee in the kitchen and going back to my office with that hot cup, or going through doors without bumping my elbows – required careful thought and planning.
“When you are in the wheelchair, you realise that there are so many little things that can be changed to make life a bit easier. My colleagues came up with suggestions and ideas of making our office more wheelchair friendly, and asked relevant questions like what would happen if there was a fire. Because of this experience, Multotec has started making changes to our premises.
“Thank you to Little Eden for this challenge, and the amazing work that you do. We are proud to be part of this experience.
EOH CEO Stephen Van Coller supported the initiative by spending the 25th of March working in a wheelchair.
“I think it is important for South African organisations and business leaders to play an active role in advocating for disability rights,” he said. “Not just for wheelchair access but also to encourage companies to increase their CSI activities and spend in support of initiatives like these.”
Epiroc joined the challenge on 30th March, when Regional General Manager, Wayne Sterley, spent the day at work in a wheelchair.
Epiroc is embracing diversity within the company, transitioning to be an inclusive organisation by creating an environment that embraces all types of differences (race, gender, disability) as part of their strategy. “Look out for more programmes that will be rolled out throughout the year to further demonstrate our strategy in action,” says Wayne.