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A wheel hands-on experience

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20081205IT’S been two minutes and I’ve already got a nasty sweat up.

The carpet looked easy enough, but even my slight frame caused the wheelchair to dig in as if it was on soft sand, washing away any speed and wasting precious arm strokes.

Add in a dodgy front wheel that kept deciding left (usually towards the stairs) was the best direction and after 10 minutes of dodging desks, lift doors and walls, I was ready for a break.

And this is at a workplace set up to be wheelchair-friendly.

The Leader was invited to take part in ParaQuad Victoria’s Wheelchair Etiquette Program at the RACV’s Noble Park headquarters recently

About 30 RACV staff tried out life in a wheelchair for more than an hour as part of the initiative, which aims to break down barriers for people with a spinal cord injury.

During that hour they worked at their desks in a wheelchair, using it to move around the office and complete their everyday tasks, including going to the bathroom.

It was an eye-opening experience for RACV project coordinator Jeanette Ravat.

“One of the ladies (who didn’t know about the initiative) asked, ‘oh, what happened to her?’ and didn’t even direct her question to me,” Ms Ravat said.

Ms Ravat, too, found short trips across the office exhausting.

For another employee, Katie Evans, the Wheelchair Etiquette Program has added significance because her daughter has cerebral palsy and spends much of her time in a wheelchair.

“She doesn’t like people staring at her, to the point that she sticks her tongue out at people,” Mrs Evans she said.

Nine Victorian companies took part in the Wheelchair Etiquette Program as part of Spinal Cord Awareness week, from November 10-16.

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