A wheelchair instead of a wheelbarrow -why we’re supporting refugees with disability

By Tony Warner, 16 May 2016 , Comments

At a refugee camp in Syria seven-year-old Ammar was pushed around in a wheelbarrow by his mother Zeinah because he has cerebral palsy and can’t walk. I’m told that was the extent one mother was prepared to go to in order to keep her child safe.

Because of the language barriers I don’t know much more than that but I don’t need to. I know I can’t relate to it. It sounds so foreign to me, not like it happened in a different country but like it happened in a different galaxy.

The desperation and determination of a mother to go to such lengths to care for her son is sobering. If her son had just had a wheelchair – maybe small or ill-fitting – but a wheelchair, it would be infinitely better than a wheelbarrow.

At Northcott we customise wheelchair seating to each individual. It is created just for one person’s need and carved in foam using advanced digital imaging. This is the complete opposite of a wheelbarrow.

What postural support can a dirty wheelbarrow provide? If we have the means to help Zeinah and Ammar then I think we are obligated to do so. Not out of sympathy but out of respect.

I am so thankful to work for an organisation that will commit time and expertise to provide such support.

This month our Equipment workshop in Parramatta will welcome the first two refugees with disability who have arrived in Australia with nothing.

An occupational therapist from Northcott will provide an assessment and will work from an existing loan pool of gently used equipment to deliver the gift of greater mobility to people who want to fit in to Australian society.

We have a range of manual wheelchairs, shower chairs and commodes that can be prescribed so that these newest members of our community can enjoy basic experiences that we take for granted. 

We have let Refugee Health know that we stand ready to support people with disability thrive and succeed regardless of where they come from.

*Tony Warner is Northcott’s Senior Client Services Manager.

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