International Wheelchair Day founder Steve Wilkinson on bridge
International Wheelchair Day founder Steve Wilkinson

Aiming to encourage wheelchair users around the world to celebrate the positive impact wheelchairs have had on their lives, the 1st March 2019 will see the 11th annual International Wheelchair Day take place.

Lifelong wheelchair user and prominent accessibility and disability rights campaigner Steve Wilkinson, commonly known as Wheelchair Steve, launched the awareness day in 2008 as part of his mission to make the world more accessible for other wheelchair users and those with mobility needs.

Discussing the inspiration behind the awareness day campaign, Steve said: “For over 20 years now, I’ve been passionate about making the world a more accessible place and have worked on a number of initiatives to improve the situation for those people with specific access needs.

“Despite disability legislation in the UK now over 20 years old, many businesses disregard their obligations to remove physical barriers, first made law in 2004 as part of the Disability Discrimination Act and subsequently covered by the Equality Act 2010.”

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Over the last two decades, Steve has tackled discrimination against disabled people and in 2012, published the ‘Disability Discrimination Legislation – Does It Work in the UK?’ report, examining various cases of disability discrimination and making recommendations of how legislation can be adopted and adapted to bring about change.

Alongside campaigning for change relating to disability discrimination, Steve says he wanted a dedicated day in the calendar for wheelchair users.

“It has always been my aim to get disabled people, particularly wheelchair users, to share what they know with others to promote the world as accessible as it is, which is why I set up International Wheelchair Day as a moment in the year for all wheelchair users, their families and communities to come together and celebrate the incredible freedoms something as simple as a wheelchair can give a disabled person.”

Determined to make his wish a reality, Steve began the International Wheelchair Day, making the 1st March annually a year to acknowledge the mobility and independent living opportunities afforded to wheelchair users by wheelchairs.

“I chose of the 1st of March because that was my mother’s birthday,” continued Steve, “she was very inspirational in helping me to see that being disabled should not be a barrier to having a normal and purposeful life”.

With the international awareness day steadily gaining attention, the campaign has seen celebrations take place in Australia, Nepal, Senegal, South Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, United Kingdom and the United States of America over the years.

Celebrations in Katmandhu for 2013's International Wheelchair Day
Celebrations in Katmandhu for 2013’s International Wheelchair Day

In addition, Steve, a brand ambassador for a number of mobility products including the Nomad Off-road wheelchair range by Adventure Mobility, was highlighted by US mobility retailer SmartChair as one of the most inspirational people in wheelchairs to follow on social media in 2015.

Steve is now working to spread awareness of the International Wheelchair Day further, encouraging more end-users and those in the industry to commemorate the significantly positive impact wheelchairs have played in so many people’s lives.

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