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RHOWI celebrates 2021 International Wheelchair Day, calls for a stop in production of inferior wheelchairs and discrimination against wheelchair users by service providers

By Awobona Ayodele

wheelchair is a chair with wheels, it is a wheeled mobility device in which the user sits, wheelchair are propelled either manually (by turning the wheels with the use of hand) or via various automated systems.

Wheelchair is used when walking is difficult or impossible due to illnessinjury, problems related to old age, or disability. Many types of orthopedic or neuromuscular impairments can impact mobility. These can include but not limited to spinal cord injuries (paraplegiahemiplegia, and quadriplegia), muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsybrain injuryosteogenesis imperfectamotor neurone disease, polio, multiple sclerosismuscular dystrophyspina bifida, amputation, arthritis and so on.

There are a wide variety of types of wheelchair, differing by propulsion method, mechanisms of control, and technology used. Some wheelchairs are designed for general everyday use, others for single activities, or to address specific access needs. Innovation within the wheelchair industry is relatively common, but many innovations ultimately fall by the wayside owing to failing to come to market at an accessible price-point. 

The International Wheelchair Day was first launched in 2008 and it is a day set aside to be celebrated on March 1st of every year which is aimed to celebrate the positive impact wheelchairs have for people with disabilities and its users. The determination, efforts and achievement of people who either provide accessibility to wheelchairs or for those who support and care for all wheelchair users has made the world a better and more accessible place for people with mobility issues.

International Wheelchair Day is also an opportunity to give appreciation to the caregivers and loved ones who support wheelchair users in so many ways. The day is also used to acknowledge the incredible things wheelchairs users accomplish every day and it further aimed to raise awareness and lend in helping hands to tens of millions of people who are in need of a wheelchair, but are unable to acquire one.

Members of Rebuilding Hope on Wheels Initiatives (RHOWI) while sharing their wheelchair experience were all happy for the invention of wheelchair because they saw it as a great relief that ease their ambulation after the pronouncement of living with spinal cord injury, they believe their wheelchair is their new legs and means of mobility.

However, there is complain of lack of quality wheelchairs in the market, most available wheelchairs are not user friendly which eventually contribute to bad posture of its users which bring back pains to the user. It is hoped that all stakeholders will put all hands on deck in recommending appropriate wheelchair for its users and government should also step up in regulating importation of quality wheelchairs and probably go ahead to subsidized its purchase for its users because quality wheelchair could be expensive.

Another shortcoming members of RHOWI like other wheelchair users highlighted is lack of accessibility in almost all public places which is therefore affecting the confidence level of the user in moving around. The attitude of majority of the populace towards wheelchair users is another thing most people who shared their experience detest because they can’t explain why people used to stare at them while in their wheelchair.

Another thing of worry to wheelchair user in Nigeria is how transporters normally do treat them, once they flag a taxi they see it as an opportunity to charge triple if not more because they know the person have no option.

Rebuilding Hope on Wheels Initiatives (RHOWI) a non-governmental and no for profit organization that had been championing the cause of persons with spinal cord injury is using the significance of this day to plead with the government to create a more accessible society to wheelchairs users in the society.

We are also reaching out to the generality of the society to have a positive perspective and outlook of wheelchair users, think it out that it could have been you before you treat them in an unpleasant way, before you render help ask them how they will want you to help with their wheelchair or wheeling them.

We are also pleading with the transporters in the society to always have empathy before charging a wheelchair user arbitrarily and outrageously, just treat them as you would have love to be treated if it had been you.

Wheelchairs provide people with disabilities more than mobility and independence. They allow people to accomplish amazing things!

The article was endorsed by Amina Audu, the Founder and Executive Director, RHOWI



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