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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine.     March Theme: "In Touch"     Volume 1 Issue 3     ISSN# 1708-3265

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Trial by Wheelchair
by Shona Steele

International Day of People with a Disability

Each year, Australia celebrates the United Nation's International Day of People with a Disability. The event commemorates the achievements of, and contributions made by, people who have a disability; and also aims to raise awareness of disability issues in the general community.

Why take the challenge?

Disabilities should never be taken lightly, as no one is immune to being disabled through misadventure, accident or illness. To "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" (although certainly a misplaced metaphor in this case) is not only a challenge but also a privilege. I have always admired people who attend work with a disability. These people carry out their expected duties - and they do it while coping with challenges most of us can only imagine, thus earning their place in the workforce and remaining independent.

As a bus commuter, I used to save a seat for a fellow passenger, who was partially paralysed after a hang-gliding accident. He gets around without a chair, but not easily, and converses by using a small typing machine with paper tape. People with disabilities are extremely brave; they fight adversity and move on, in a life dramatically changed and more difficult.

I know of a young woman who hand-walks herself up the bus steps then hauls the folded chair up the steps after her; she doesn't accept help, preferring self sufficiency. I also have a friend in England who is in a wheelchair. She went through pain management therapy so she could stand for a short time at her wedding.

I've had quite a bit of experience pushing wheelchairs for elderly family members who cannot walk for one reason or another; and to be honest, losing the use of my legs is one of my worst nightmares, second only to losing my eyesight.

Taking the "Trial by Wheelchair Challenge" was about recognising those around us who have to live with the challenge, every day, for the rest of their lives. For me personally, it was about facing demons as well, resolving to appreciate the mobility I have, improve on it, and not take it for granted. Looking after what we have is important, as it's so easily lost.

24th Nov 2003 Wheelchair Confined for a Day

The day started just after 0700 hours, and I failed the first challenge because a tilting path beat me - the chair insisted on going with gravity. I came with a friend, so she gave me a push. I got into the building. Opening doors outward seemed like it would be easier than trying to push, but actually it seemed about the same; you still have to use the chair to hold or push the door. Manoeuvring on carpet is like pushing uphill, no fun at all.


As a result of the wheelchair challenge I took part in at work, anyone who is confined to a wheelchair and applies for a job here now has a better-than-fair chance of being considered.

Before the challenge, the belief was our area wasn't wheelchair-accessible. I determinedly proved them wrong, so now there is another area willing to give 'wheelies' an equal opportunity.

Hopefully they will do something about those toilet doors!

Shona Steele works for the Defence Department in Australia. She is a volunteer with RSPCA and with a Companion Animal Committee. She loves all animals, including humans. Her respect for life began at an early age, nurtured by her Mum. Growing up with many varied pets and rescues, she strongly believes if we teach respect for all life, humanity will grow more gentle.

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