On 28th March 2012, The Hon. Ian Hunter MLC, Minister for Disabilities made the following speech at Legislative Council of the South Australian Parliament:
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion, Minister for Social Housing, Minister for Disabilities, Minister for Youth, Minister for Volunteers) (15:07): I would like to thank the honourable member for his very important question and his ongoing concern on these issues. On 1 March this year, I had the great pleasure of joining my parliamentary colleague the Hon. Kelly Vincent at International Wheelchair Day celebrations here in Adelaide.
Hosted by the Disability Information and Resource Centre (DIRC), the Adelaide celebrations were just the beginning of a series of events held across the globe to mark this occasion. International Wheelchair Day was established in 2008 by Mr Steve Wilkinson, an Englishman affectionately referred to by many people—and certainly by his mates—as Wheelchair Steve. Steve chose 1 March as the date for International Wheelchair Day, I am advised, for no other reason than it coincided with the birthday of his late mother, Joyce, and he thought it would be a lovely way to honour the woman who helped him to cope with the challenges of growing up with spina bifida.
Steve also told me that he came to do this by googling ‘International Wheelchair Day’ and, when nothing popped up on his search, he decided to establish it. That is a bit of a lesson for many of us who want to establish our own international day—it is as easy as that: use your search engine, find a day you want to celebrate and set about doing it. Steve established this International Wheelchair Day to encourage wheelchair users to reflect on the positive impact their wheelchair makes in their lives. It is a day to celebrate increased mobility, access—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President—and independence. Wheelchair Steve used this year’s International Wheelchair Day to officially launch the International Wheelchair Club, a website that allows people with mobility issues to share their positive (and sometimes not so positive) experiences with each other—a kind of TripAdvisor for people in wheelchairs.
While it is impossible to accurately count the number of wheelchairs in use around the globe, the International Wheelchair Club has the potential to reach millions of people online, providing valuable knowledge and tips to people living with limited mobility. International Wheelchair Day was truly an international event. One of the highlights of the day, I am told, was a rally held in Kathmandu. Organised by the Kathmandu Spinal Injuries Resource Centre, 92 wheelchair users rallied under the banner ‘We shall fly’ to raise awareness within the Nepalese community around the need for improved access to roads and buildings.
Of course, wheelchair users in Third World countries such as Nepal face significant challenges that we here in Australia can only really imagine. That is not to say that there is always equitable access for wheelchair users here in Australia, but I think we would all acknowledge that we have come a long way in recent years. While there are certainly improvements that must be made still, our community is a lot more aware of our responsibilities in this area.
I thank the Disability Information and Resource Centre for hosting this year’s event, and I would especially like to extend my thanks to Steve, who travelled from the United Kingdom to share International Wheelchair Day with the South Australian disability community. On the day, the Hon. Kelly Vincent and I committed to the community that we will be involved in planning for the next International Wheelchair Day.