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Let's celebrate International Wheelchair Day!
Did you know that Wednesday 1st March 2017 is International Wheelchair Day? Possibly not, as even with the internet making information more readily available, it takes some time to spread the word.
On 1st March 2008, I launched International Wheelchair Day. I'm a lifelong wheelchair user and accessibility campaigner known by many as @WheelchairSteve. Since then, people around the world have found references to International Wheelchair Day and used it to celebrate the wheelchair, which is what the day is all about.
I “googled” International Wheelchair Day in 2008 and discovered there wasn’t one, so decided to create one, announcing it in a blog. I chose 1st March as a dedication to my late Mother, Joyce, who had encouraged me so much as a child, pushing me to school in my chair, after he’d been born with Spina Bifida.
I recognise myself and encourage others to celebrate likewise that my wheelchair gives me the freedom to get out and about, something I wouldn’t be able to do without it.
International Wheelchair Day has 3 main aims:
- To enable wheelchair users to celebrate the positive impact a wheelchair has in their lives.
- To celebrate the great work of the many millions of people who provide wheelchairs, who provide support and care for wheelchair users and who make the World a better and more accessible place for people with mobility issues.
- To acknowledge and react constructively to the fact there are many tens of millions of people in the World who need a wheelchair, but are unable to acquire one.
While it took several years to take off, celebrations on the Day have taken place all over the World. To date there have been activities and events in Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Senegal, USA as well as here in the UK. Everyone is encouraged to celebrate in their own particular way whether it is individually or as a group.
The biggest event that has been held every year since 2012 has been in Kathmandu, Nepal, where the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre has held a rally where wheelchair users have paraded through the streets celebrating the freedom their wheelchairs give them while highlighting the access issues that still exist in the city. In 2016, over 300 wheelchair users and helpers took part.
Just before this year’s International Wheelchair Day, I received an email from a lady in South Africa to say they have been able to “start a drive to raise funds for 3 wheelchairs for folk in Sub Economic Old Age homes in Cape Town”, satisfying the 3rd aim of the Day.
In 2015, I wrote a book called “The History of International Wheelchair Day ”, which is available to download as a pdf free of charge from the International Wheelchair Day website. You can also download the official logos free of charge from the website, to use as part of your celebration activity or event. Each year since 2011, the official logo has been designed by accomplished cartoonist and wheelchair user, Hannah Ensor from Oxford.
Now that you are more aware of International Wheelchair Day, hopefully even more people will get involved going forward and International Wheelchair Day will become more established and recognised in the years ahead.