Steve Wilkinson was born with Spina Bifida in 1953, and has used a wheelchair for most of his life, devotes his life to his mission to make the world more accessible for other wheelchair users and people with non-standard needs. In 2008, he took to Google to find out whether there was a national day to recognize the rights of wheelchair users and those with mobility issues – there wasn’t. Well, not yet anyway.
On his discovery that a day dedicated to wheelchair users didn’t exist, Steve, who is perhaps better known by the name ‘Wheelchair Steve’ set to and posted a blog on the social site Ecademy declaring that March the 1st was ‘International Wheelchair Day’ – an official opportunity for wheelchair users to celebrate the positive impact a wheelchair has on their life and independence. From here, Steve contacted people who worked alongside him to found the International Wheelchair Day which has now been celebrated for 8 years.
A year later, the anniversary of the first ever International Wheelchair Day was marked by another post from Steve on Ecademy. He took advantage of the 2nd year celebration to launch his ‘Red Rag to a Bull’ appeal to raise money for disabled children.
The 3rd International Wheelchair Day in 2010 was celebrated with yet a 3rd post on Ecademy.
At this stage, awareness of the event in the UK and the rest of the world was still pretty low. Persistence, being Steve’s ‘middle name’, he was confident that one day this would be a world recognised and celebrated annual event.
2011 dawned, and Steve was contacted by Hannah, a talented cartoonist and fellow wheelchair user. Hannah had discovered the day online and designed a logo. Steve was delighted and adopted the logo (see below) for that year.
Hannah has designed the official logos every year since then.
Through much persistence and determination we now see International Wheelchair Day being celebrated with many different events around the world.
Now, every 1st of March, the UK invites volunteers to spend their entire day in a wheelchair. Many people who participate report their shock at how differently they were treated when in the chair – even from friends and family. Many feel as if people talk to a ‘wheelchair user’ rather than a person. All report feeling awkward – sadly, a daily reality for wheelchair users around the globe.
I live to see the day when those with disabilities are accepted for who they are as a person before their disability is noticed.
Here at Enable Access, we’re celebrating today as a day we can all come together and reflect on how far we’ve come in providing accessibility for those in wheelchairs; but also as a chance to consider – ‘What can I do to help the fight for complete social inclusion’?