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Change the world

School of Management Sciences

06/10/2015

Marketing lecturer, Tania Shrosbree, recently took part in the In your Shoes Campaign. Tania spent time in a wheelchair and this is her reflection on her experience.

I have grown up with a father who has a permanent disability and therefore thought I knew what having a disability entailed, I was so wrong....

As it was Disability Month at the NMMU I volunteered for the, In your Shoes Campaign. My aim was to sensitize the students and staff to the challenges that life presents to a disabled person.

My choice was a wheelchair, thinking, "How difficult could it be?" Well, from the minute I sat in the wheelchair I struggled. The position that you sit in is very straight with your behind sinking down into the back of the seat. This creates tension and tightness in your abdominal area. Your legs are strapped in at the foot of the chair which immediately gave me a sense of loss of control. My first struggle was to try and get into my office. The entrance is just big enough for the wheelchair, but I continuously scrapped my knuckles against the door frame. The placement of the furnishings in my office was also not conducive to allowing space for the movement of the chair.

My third year students wrote a test for me that day in Z215 (Second Avenue Campus). The second struggle I had was to exit my corridor as we have a security gate with access control, with a box of tests on my lap, maneuvering the wheelchair and getting through doorways was quite stressful. The swing doors separating the academic staff area from the lecturing venues was a major problem. I eventually had to try and gather speed to bump both doors open and then somehow push myself with the wheelchair through the doors while attempting to hold the one side door open. Entering my lecture venue presented the same problem.

The ramp in Z215 always seemed quite user friendly to me, however, in a wheelchair I soon discovered this is not the case. The ramp is too steep and on attempting to go up the ramp I nearly toppled over backwards, which to be honest was quite scary with having your legs strapped in. I had to ask the student assistant to help push me up the ramp. On attempting to go down the ramp this was also a problem as I nearly toppled forward. All in all, quite scary. Even the joining strips in the corridors, as small as they are, presented problems as with the bump, things that I had on my lap moved and slid down. The lift on Second Avenue does come flush with the entrance on the floor where the two join, this created major problems. I really struggled to get the wheelchair into the lift and even got stuck as the lift doors were closing.

The strangest thing actually occurred, although many people and students offered help to me in opening doors and carrying things etc. I became very stubborn and would not allow them to help me. I was determined I would do this thing on my own. This gave me a whole new perspective on the determination of a disabled person, and depending on the disability why they do not want people to be aware of the disability they have at times.

ABOVE: Marketing Lecturer, Tania Shrosbree supporting the In Your Shoes Campaign