Street parade marks 10th anniversary of International Wheelchair day, founded by man from Sunderland
International Wheelchair Day was set up by Sunderland man Steve Wilkinson, who was born with spina bifida and started using a chair around 15 years ago and all the time about six years ago.
He organised the birthday event and was joined by around 25 others in wheelchairs.
They were joined by around the same number of children from Southwick Primary School, who walked with a banner, while the city’s mayor, Coun Doris MacKnight, also attended.
The parade began from Gildacre Fields housing complex, in Southwick, and covered a route of around quarter of a mile.
A series of races using both push and powered wheelchairs were then held as the children and guests gained an experience of using the equipment.
The day aims to mark the positive impact the kit can have on lives, recognises the work of those who provide the wheelchairs and make places more accessible place for people with mobility issues and 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.
Steve, 64, who a retired public speaker and appeared under the name Wheelchair Steve, lives in the Housing and Care 21 complex, which sponsored the event, with other residents among those to join in.
He said: “International Wheelchair Day is about celebrating the freedom of people who use a wheelchair and showing others about the help they get from them.
“It’s not always a negative, using a wheelchair, and most people I know couldn’t do the things they do without them.
“Businesses are really seeing the benefit of making themselves accessible and really see the value of what’s called the purple pound, because people bring other people with them.
“But more needs to be done by the Government and the law is weak, so people have to make civil claims under health and safety.”
David McGee, manager at Gildacre Fields, also spent a day doing his job in a wheelchair as he gained an experience of the difficulties people encounter, as well as the help chairs can offer people to get out and about.
The Wearside International Wheelchair Day event had been due to be held on March 1, but was postponed a week due to the bad weather.
More details about the day can be found via http://wheelchairsteve.com/international-wheelchair-day/.