The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) kicked off the Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, celebrated annually in March, by participating in the Little Eden Society’s launch of their 3rd annual Little Eden CEO Wheelchair Campaign. SAFMH’s Deputy Director, Leon de Beer, joined Little Eden Society CEO, Xelda Rohrbeck, by spending part of the day in a wheelchair in order to highlight mobility challenges faced by people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities. The campaign, which challenges CEOs of companies to spend one day at work in a wheelchair, aims to raise much-needed funds and awareness for the organisation, which currently looks after 300 residents with severe and profound intellectual disability.
Throughout the month of March, 13 other CEOs are expected to commit to also spending a day in a wheelchair to raise a much needed R1 million towards the care of Little Eden’s beneficiaries, fondly referred to as #angels. The funds will go towards covering the cost of caring for children and adults with intellectual disability supported by the organisation. Through her own efforts, Ms Rohrbeck aims to personally raise R30 000 in support of the campaign. “We often take for granted the challenges that people who rely on wheelchairs for their mobility face on a daily basis. The little Eden Wheelchair Campaign is a wonderful opportunity for one to reflect on the blessings they have,” says Rohrbeck.
A total of 189 residents at Little Eden rely on wheelchairs for their mobility needs, showing why awareness related to wheelchair-use is such an important issue for Little Eden.
Speaking at the event, Mr De Beer urged South Africans to do their part in supporting people with intellectual disabilities. “Sitting in a wheelchair for half a day has been a humbling experience, seeing the world from a different perspective. It's all about intellectual disability and we at SAFMH support intellectual disability awareness month, with the theme I am able, not a label. Fighting stigma and discrimination is a core part of the campaign,” says de Beer.
SA Paralympic boat rower, Sandra Khumalo, who is also a patron of Little Eden and an ambassador for the campaign, also participated in the launch. Ms Khumalo, who is herself a wheelchair user, called on corporate leaders to take part in the 3rd annual Little Eden Wheelchair Campaign. “It is my wish for more CEOs to support this campaign because they are in the position to influence disability rights in their organisations, not only around access for wheelchair users in the workplace but also begin to influence how CSI allocates funding particularly towards the most vulnerable groups such as people with profound intellectual disability”.
Since its inception in 2018 corporate companies including Discovery Limited, Multotec, Mix Telematics, Mandate Molefe, Boake Inc, Flender, Munsoft have supported the initiative. This year the organization hopes even more cooperate companies participate in the campaign.
Participating in the campaign allows CEOs to recognise the activity limitations that flow from using a wheelchair for daily mobility and will go a long way towards enabling them to make informed strategic decisions to accommodate wheelchair users and other forms of disability in the workplace.
Social workers from North Gauteng Mental Health also showed support to the campaign. Social worker, Ntebo Penane, says people with disabilities have much to contribute to the world and should be supported in every way possible. “People with disabilities are so much more than just their disabilities. They should not be limited by their disability to do anything,” says Penane.
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