One hundred people with disabilities got a new lease on life yesterday when they received wheelchairs as part of the SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday initiative at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
The initiative, which required able-bodied business people to spend four hours in a wheelchair completing various tasks, served to create awareness of the real-life challenges faced by people with disabilities.
Although it was the third edition of the campaign, SPAR has been the title sponsor of this event for the past 2 years.
SPAR retailers did their bit over four weeks in July as part of the brand’s commitment to the cause.
“We wanted to give back to people who are less fortunate than us,” said Wendy Westraadt, SPAR Eastern Cape’s promotions and advertising manager.
“The initiative touched a special place in our hearts and we wanted to make sure our retailers felt the same way.”
This year, Wheelchair Wednesday raised close to half a million rand, which is almost double that of 2013.
The initiative has now managed to put more than 250 people in wheelchairs since its inception.
Brian Bezuidenhout, executive director of the Association for People with Disabilities (APD), said he was delighted by the public’s positive response.
“It’s been absolutely amazing. The initiative has really helped to highlight some of the practical and social issues faced by people with disabilities.
“Businesses in Port Elizabeth have shown what they’re worth and we’re really grateful for that.”
Participants, who represented 40 local companies, were encouraged to give feedback about their experiences.
Some aspects that kept cropping up were insufficient parking, counters that were too high, public toilet facilities and inaccessible ATM machines.
Bezuidenhout said that there was an ongoing drive to make businesses more disabled-friendly, and that receiving these reports was an integral part of the process.
In giving feedback that brought about positive change, participants were helping to make wheelchair-bound residents’ lives easier, he said.
Wheelchair recipients were sourced from all over PE, with APD’s social workers assessing and hand-picking candidates who would benefit most.
Westraadt said SPAR EC had a long-standing relationship with APD and that the retailer would continue to look at ways to improve the shopping experience for their disabled customers.