Six able-bodied individuals experienced life in a wheelchair for a day on International Spinal Cord Injury Day Tuesday in Red Deer.
They were given a wheelchair and asked to go about their daily routine. After six hours in the wheelchair, the participants gave feedback on their experiences and challenges.
Using the ramps throughout the city was one of the chief challenges.
Participant Tymmarah Sheculski said going down the ramps in the city was not easy.
“If I don’t have muscle to get up the ramp, that’s one thing. But if I don’t have the muscle to hold myself while I’m zooming down…,” she said.
Adam Goodwin said he was stuck on a curb near a crosswalk.
“I had to get up because the light was going to change colour,” he said.
Sheculski said what concerned her was the way people avoided her glance on the streets.
“They actually looked away from me as they walked past me and I thought ‘wow is that how we as a community treat people in wheelchairs?’ ” she said.
She added she had two people who smiled at her out of 10 that she came across throughout the day.
At one point, a person did jump in to help her as she went about her daily routine, but he didn’t stay around long enough to receive his thank you.
Both Goodwin and Sheculski had difficulties manoeuvring their chairs in their work space.
Doug Manderville, Spinal Cord Injury Alberta manager of regional programs and services, said the exercise was not about pointing out what was wrong with the community.
The one-day experience lets people understand the daily challenges people with mobility issues go through, he said. He hopes the experience helps build a healthier community.
The goal of the exercise is to raise awareness of the challenges that comes with wheelchairs, strollers and scooters.
The event was hosted in partnership with Eco Medical in Red Deer and Red Deer Inclusion and Accessibility Network.
Manderville said the right way to approach someone with mobility issues is to ask if they need help.
“There are always going to be people who don’t need help but offer,” he said.