Wheely good prac­tice

Gatton Star - - NEWS - Meg Bolton Meg.bolton@gat­ton­star.com.au

LOCK­YER rep­re­sen­ta­tives will never look at gra­di­ents, steps and cracks in the pave­ment the same way again af­ter spend­ing 24 hours in a wheel­chair.

As part of Ro­tary’s wheel­chair chal­lenge, par­tic­i­pants vis­ited var­i­ous lo­ca­tions across the re­gion in wheel­chairs to raise aware­ness for the im­por­tance of dis­abil­ity ac­cess.

Mem­ber for Lock­yer Jim Mcdon­ald was just one of the par­tic­i­pants to ex­pe­ri­ence the lack of ac­ces­si­bil­ity first-hand.

“I look at foot­paths and cross­ings with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent set of eyes,” Mr Mcdon­ald said.

With a new-found re­spect and un­der­stand­ing for the daily strug­gles of peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity, Mr Mcdon­ald said ac­ces­si­bil­ity in the re­gion needed to be up­dated.

“It might take a num­ber of years but if we can each year see dif­fer­ent places im­proved and see a net­work of wheel­chair-friendly routes and ac­cess that would be a great start­ing point,” he said.

LVRC coun­cil­lors Ja­son Cook and Chris Wil­son also par­tic­i­pated in the chal­lenge and agreed more con­sid­er­a­tion for peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity was needed.

“The chal­lenge has opened our eyes up dra­mat­i­cally,” Cr Cook said.

“When you walk along the street you don’t even think about this stuff but be­ing in a wheel­chair for the past 24 hours you look and feel the chal­lenges that these peo­ple who are wheel­chair-bound face every day.”

Mr Cook said he planned to use his ex­pe­ri­ence to in­flu­ence in­fra­struc­ture up­grades in the re­gion to im­prove wheel­chair ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

While the com­pli­ca­tions of wheel­chair ac­ces­si­bil­ity as­ton­ished par­tic­i­pants, the chal­lenge was just one of the daily strug­gles that Lochlan Thomas faces.

“I think I’ve opened a lot of peo­ple’s eyes in the 24-hour chal­lenge,” he said.

“They don’t know what the sys­tem is ac­tu­ally like un­til they’ve been there and ex­pe­ri­enced it. Now they have got a bit of a taste of what it’s like be­ing in my shoes every day, seven days a week.”

Mr Thomas was born with cere­bral palsy, a con­di­tion af­fect­ing move­ment and mus­cle co-or­di­na­tion, which means he has been in a wheel­chair all his life.

The chal­lenge made Mr Thomas feel in­cluded and pro­vided him with an op­por­tu­nity to share his story.

“I got to show them ex­actly what it’s like and the strug­gles I have to go through to get to places,” he said.

“It feels aw­ful (when there is no wheel­chair ac­ces­si­bil­ity), it makes me feel like I haven’t got a place within my wider com­mu­nity be­cause I can’t do things that I can see other peo­ple do­ing.”

Lock­yer Val­ley Ro­tary Club pres­i­dent Regina Samykanu said the in­au­gu­ral chal­lenge was a suc­cess.

“We are very pleased with the money we have raised but our aim was to raise aware­ness, rais­ing aware­ness is the most im­por­tant thing for us,” Ms Samykanu said.

PHOTO: MEG BOLTON

IN­CLUDE EV­ERY­ONE: Par­tic­i­pants of the wheel­chair chal­lenge pa­rade down the main street of Gat­ton.

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