While mobility retailers in Wales are donning daffodils and celebrating St David’s Day today, the rest of the UK’s dealers need not feel left out from festivities.
International Wheelchair Day is celebrating its 11th year today to highlight the positive impact the equipment has on people’s lives, which most mobility retailers will be very familiar with.
International Wheelchair day was founded by Steve Wilkinson, more commonly known as ‘Wheelchair Steve’.
Born and raised in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Wilkinson is a prominent campaigner for disability rights and campaigns to make the world more accessible for other wheelchair users.
Explaining why he set up the day, Wilkinson said: “For over 20 years now, I’ve been passionate about making the world a more accessible place and have worked on a number of initiatives to improve the situation for those people with specific access needs.
“Despite disability legislation in the UK now over 20 years old, many businesses disregard their obligations to remove physical barriers, first made law in 2004 as part of the Disability Discrimination Act and subsequently covered by the Equality Act 2010.
“I have lots of experience tackling discrimination against disabled people, which are summarised in a report I published in 2012 called ‘Disability Discrimination Legislation – Does It Work in the UK?’.
“However, it has always been my aim to get disabled people, particularly wheelchair users, to share what they know with others to promote the world as accessible as it is, which is why I set up International Wheelchair Day as a moment in the year for all wheelchair users, their families and communities to come together and celebrate the incredible freedoms something as simple as a wheelchair can give a disabled person.
“I chose 1st March because that was my mother’s birthday and she was very inspirational in helping me to see that being disabled should not be a barrier to having a normal and purposeful life.”
Wilkinson was credited in 2015 by SmartChair, a mobility retailer in the US, as being one of the most ‘Inspirational People in Wheelchairs To Follow On Social Media’ – a list then headed up by the late Stephen Hawking.
Since it was first launched in 2008, celebrations on International Wheelchair Day have taken place in Australia, Nepal, Senegal, South Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, United Kingdom and United States of America.
Image: Steve Wilkinson