INCLUDE EVERYONE: Participants of the Wheelchair challenge parading down the main street of Gatton.
INCLUDE EVERYONE: Participants of the Wheelchair challenge parading down the main street of Gatton. Meg Bolton

Lockyer representatives experience life in a wheelchair

LOCKYER representatives will never look at gradients, steps and cracks in the pavement the same way again after spending 24 hours in a wheelchair.

As part of Rotary's wheelchair challenge, participants visited various locations across the region in wheelchairs to raise awareness for the importance of disability access.

Member for Lockyer Jim McDonald was just one of the participants to experience the lack of accessibility first-hand.

"I look at footpaths and crossings with a completely different set of eyes,” MrMcDonald said.

With a new-found respect and understanding for the daily struggles of people with a disability, Mr McDonald said accessibility in the region needed to be updated.

"It might take a number of years but if we can each year see different places improved and see a network of wheelchair-friendly routes and access that would be a great starting point,” he said.

LVRC councillors Jason Cook and Chris Wilson also participated in the challenge and agreed more consideration for people with a disability was needed.

"The challenge has opened our eyes up dramatically,” Cr Cook said.

"When you walk along the street you don't even think about this stuff but being in a wheelchair for the past 24 hours you look and feel the challenges that these people who are wheelchair-bound face every day.”

Mr Cook said he planned to use his experience to influence infrastructure upgrades in the region to improve wheelchair accessibility.

While the complications of wheelchair accessibility astonished participants, the challenge was just one of the daily struggles that Lochlan Thomas faces.

"I think I've opened a lot of people's eyes in the 24-hour challenge,” he said.

"They don't know what the system is actually like until they've been there and experienced it. Now they have got a bit of a taste of what it's like being in my shoes every day, seven days a week.”

Mr Thomas was born with cerebral palsy, a condition affecting movement and muscle co-ordination, which means he has been in a wheelchair all his life.

The challenge made Mr Thomas feel included and provided him with an opportunity to share his story.

"I got to show them exactly what it's like and the struggles I have to go through to get to places,” he said.

"It feels awful (when there is no wheelchair accessibility), it makes me feel like I haven't got a place within my wider community because I can't do things that I can see other people doing.”

Lockyer Valley Rotary Club president Regina Samykanu said the inaugural challenge was a success.

"We are very pleased with the money we have raised but our aim was to raise awareness, raising awareness is the most important thing for us,” Ms Samykanu said.

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