Three Westpac managers have spent their working days in wheelchairs to experience how tough life can be for those who have to use them.
Senior Commercial Manager Scott Wagenvoord, Canterbury Consumer Network Regional Manager Linda Edmonds, and Rob Howie, Commercial South Island Regional Manager, all spent last Wednesday in wheelchairs to raise awareness for the NZ Spinal Trust’s Relieve the Pressure campaign.
The initiative aimed to draw attention to the amount of pressure placed on the body of someone who spends their life in a chair.
From the moment the Westpac team began their day, all three noticed the physical effort required to move the wheelchairs, as well as the uneven nature of the roads and footpaths around their office.
Simple tasks such as reaching cupboards where glasses or coffee cups were stored became more challenging, and all three also commented on how they felt observed when out in public.
“People were looking uncomfortable… and lots of people came and offered to help, whereas I felt I just wanted to be independent and do things by myself,” says Linda.
As part of her day, Linda led a coaching session in the new Christchurch Central branch, and she said it was positive to experience that the design of the branch was wheelchair-friendly.
“The layout was really good and there were some nicely designed features that made it really user friendly for someone in a wheelchair.”
“There are still a heck of a lot of obstacles to make life comfortable for someone in a wheelchair,” says Scott. “The experience has really increased my awareness.”
Rob agreed. “The simple things are hard, that’s probably what surprised me the most,” he said. “The mind’s quite busy as a result of the experience, it’s been a great opportunity.”
The trio were particularly keen to support the Trust as they know it has personally helped one of their colleagues, Andy Dravitzki, a commercial manager in the Nelson office.
About two years ago, Andy and Jenny’s son Billy had a mountain biking accident, which resulted in a serious spinal injury.
“We spent a few months in Burwood Hospital in Christchurch and there was a lot of uncertainty about the future,” says Andy.
“The NZ Spinal Trust visited us early and immediately made us and Billy more comfortable about life after a spinal cord injury, and the challenges and opportunities that it provides. The Trust provides an invaluable service.”
Ro Graveston, Commercial Manager, who helped to organise the day, says it was a hugely positive experience.
“We have a really strong connection with the Trust, and helping them to spread their message in this way is fundamental to our ongoing relationship, and to building a better Christchurch together.”