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Thursday, June 19, 2008

"30 Days in a Wheelchair" on - Experiencing Life From a Different Perspective

Caregivers can understand the perspective of those who spend life in a wheelchair by watching "30 Days in a Wheelchair" on NFL player Ray Crockett spends 30 days in a wheelchair, experiencing the adaptations needed for daily living. As he gets ready to start on the first day he is advised that he'll learn to have an appreciatiion for the frustration that is felt when someone spends so much time "looking at everyone's belt buckle" and he'll find that often people won't make eye contact because they are uncomfortable. The program focuses on spinal cord injuries but the insights about life using a wheelchair will apply for others as well.

Ray starts at the Baylor Rehabilitation Institute. He is advised that people will choose to make eye contact with his wife if she is standing nearby, often avoiding him, and they may act as if he is deaf and dumb. Our culture and society has to learn how to accept people who use a wheelchair.

When someone has to start using a wheelchair friends are lost as well as activities, because people feel uncomfortable or cannot adjust to being around the person who is now using a wheelchair.

One person said it is like waking up and thinking it was only a bad dream but finding it was real. However, as one of the counselors said, life does go on and one struggles to adapt because there is no other way.

Ray's car is fitted with hand and arm controls since he cannot use his legs while he is in the "30 days" project, and his house is adapted for disability. He find that there are a lot more stairs, steep slopes and narrow doorways than he thought.

He spends part of his time at the Rehabilitation Institute with spinal cord injury patients and groups for therapy. One of the volunteer counselor's shows him how to get around and speaks openly about what it is like. He participates in "wheelchair rugby" and this is like football in wheelchairs - it's a rough sport.

After 30 days when Ray returns to walking he has made some special friends and learned from them and from his experience what life is like for those who use a wheelchair.

Caregivers can understand the frustrations felt by wheelchair users better after they see this video. Better yet, try using a wheelchair for awhile in order to experience life from a different perspective, like NFL player Ray Crockett did.

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