My daughter recently started a four-year training course to become an occupational therapist (OT). Barely a day goes past without her mentioning some aspect of the course which has captured her imagination. Disability awareness is an important part of her training. She is rapidly learning how the other half lives.
All occupational therapy students get to experience disability first hand. My daughter was recently supplied with a pair of black-out glasses and a white cane and was asked to negotiate her way around the college campus as a ‘blind’ student. Hands-on training exercises like this are by far the best way to learn about the difficulties faced by those living with a disability.
My daughter’s next challenge was to experience using a wheelchair. This time she and another OT student were asked to negotiate crossing a road in their wheelchairs, to make a purchase from the shop opposite the hospital entrance. They were dispatched with one helper between them to assist as required. The girls had no difficulty propelling their chairs manually across the road but found it hard to negotiate the kerb on the opposite pavement. As their helper could only assist one wheelchair at a time, a passer-by jumped to the rescue of my daughter and helped her to mount the footpath in her wheelchair. She thanked him profusely but this good Samaritan wasn’t happy to leave it there. He insisted on wheeling her into the shop where she was to buy her lunch. This shop is frequented by college students and the shop assistants are well used to seeing the OT students ‘in training’. As the good Samaritan pushed the wheelchair up to the sales counter, the shop assistant recognised my daughter as a regular customer and decided to tease her. He leant over the counter dangling a chocolate bar in her face and said “I’ll give it to you for free if you stand up”.
I’m told that the good Samaritan looked totally mortified and then fled!