OBF initiative encourages able-bodied people to spend a day as a disabled person

The Oppie Bol Foundation (OBF) has throughout November - which is also National Disability Rights Awareness Month - been hosting a weekly #DisabilityFriday where able-bodied persons spend the day in the life of a disabled individual.

Oppie Bol Foundation's Cazle Hendricks (right) at the foundation's disability awareness event. Picture: Facebook

JOHANNESBURG - Disability Awareness Month is seen as an opportunity to remove barriers and to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities through action, education and creating access.

The Oppie Bol Foundation (OBF) has throughout November been hosting a weekly #DisabilityFriday where able-bodied persons spend the day in the life of a disabled individual.

"Have you ever wondered what it must feel like to be a person with a disability? Our programme #DisabilityFriday was launched to create awareness by having able-bodied people perform their daily routines in a wheelchair, blindfolded, using crutches, etc. This would help them to understand the plight of a person with a disability and instead of seeing them as a burden, become more compassionate and relate to them," said the foundation's founder Cazle Hendricks.

Hendricks said that he wanted to use this campaign to give the voiceless a voice.

"I hope to be the voice of those who are too afraid to speak out their thoughts, their challenges, their fears. I want to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. Being a person with a disability, I understand what they experience," he explained.

South Africa celebrates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December, with the aim of drawing attention toward removing barriers and improving the quality of life of people with disabilities.

"The disability programmes in the organisation focus on the integration of persons with disabilities (PWD) in the broader society. Reintegration as a form of rehabilitation for persons with disabilities into mainstream society is one of the key focus areas in the organisation," Hendricks explained.

Hendricks said that the foundation used the wellness programmes as a tool to advocate for an inclusive society through creating opportunities for PWD's to access facilities and skills development.

READ: Mr and Miss Albinism SA hope to change how they are viewed

"The objective of Oppie Bol is to advocate for inclusivity in society, moreover, that of PWD, using education, health and wellness programme as a tool in mainstreaming persons with disabilities into existing development programmes by presenting an opportunity to have access to facilities, equipment, skills development through talent identification and participation in sport," Hendricks said.

When asked by Eyewitness News what changes the Oppie Bol Foundation hopes to see during Disability Rights Awareness Month and which issues it wanted to be tackled beyond just this month, the foundation said that they wanted access to everything that everyone had, from a toilet to equal pay.

"If you look at buildings and facilities, you will notice that persons with disabilities are not always catered for, that when we have events, the greatest challenge we have is procuring disability toilets, which are scarce," Hendricks said.

"Persons with disabilities find it extremely difficult to find jobs and this is one of our main objectives, that is, to promote disability mainstreaming and for schools to accommodate persons with disabilities. We honestly just want access," Hendricks said.

Hendricks said that he's currently studying towards being a facilitator and mentor and that he hoped to use the skills he acquired to train and develop persons with disabilities.

Furthermore, through the Oppie Bol Foundation, he hoped to educate society around disability etiquette.

"Disability etiquette is lacking, and we want to empower not just persons with disabilities but able-bodied persons e.g. a guard dog for a blind person is a dog that is doing his job and is not considered a pet to be played with; people in wheelchairs don’t appreciate others leaning on their wheelchairs because it seems disrespectful; a white cane for a blind person indicates that the person is completely blind," Hendricks said.