My friends and I visited our friend's home to have the experience of a wheelchair user as part of our university course activity to put ourselves in their shoes (in their situation) by living their life at home and trying to understand their needs and be aware of their struggles.
My experience was amazingly an eye opener, but it was sad at the same time. At the start, I was keen to experience their feelings for the first time, but once we started the experiment and I sat in the wheelchair and started moving around the space I felt strange and afraid as I understand that I cannot use my leg even if it was for that short period of time compared to them. I started recognizing the amazing gift that God gives me and I took it for granted as many of us. This experience made me more understandable for other's needs and more thankful for all God gifts.
During the experiment, we faced many challenges in the space. This is starting from the house threshold that is stopping me from entering the house to the hardship in moving to the bathroom or the kitchen unless I have someone to lift me up, and not ending with the challenging rugs. Moving the wheelchair was originally difficult for me as my hand started to hurt after using the wheelchair for a long time, and the rugs in some places make the movements harder as they block the wheelchair path. Also, the bathroom space was too tiny, it was impossible to move inside the space with the wheelchair as you will keep hitting the other objects. Not to forget that reaching high levels as kitchen upper cabinets and counters were missions impossible. Everything in our usual surrounding was working against us and nothing helped as much to make a wheel chaired life easier in the space.
We thought that the solution can be easier if we only can be a little more considerate and if that applies to all sectors and life matters. As for a usual apartment space, there are simple applications that could help wheelchair users. For example, the problem of having raised threshold blocks which can be easily solved by replacing each one of them with a threshold that has a tapered lip or by installing a new threshold that is flush with the floor and the developers can consider in the designs to have modified or replaced door sizes. Nowadays, there are some smart applications that can be installed on mobiles to control everything in the house (smart home), to help the wheelchair users to control curtains, door openers, security and monitoring systems, TVs, and many others easily.
In my point of view, I believe that living the experience of being in a wheelchair is the best method of awareness. “you never know until you try" this quote summarizes my point. Therefore, making people try a wheelchair even for a short time will make them aware of the struggles that they suffer and aware of their needs. This experiment can be replicated in schools and universities to raise awareness of future generations and to start noticing more change in the space starting from house designs even in malls and restaurants.
Written by Hanin Al-Kuhlani
A dedicated Khadoum volunteer
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