NextStep Issues Challenge: Spend a Day in a Wheelchair

Do you truly understand what it's like to live in a wheelchair? This month NextStep challenges you to get a better idea by spending one day in a wheelchair and documenting your experience.

The Wheelchair for a Day challenge is part of a nationwide awareness campaign about the daily challenges associated with paralysis.

"The idea came up at one of our board meetings at NextStep as we discussed different ways to build awareness about the 6 million people that live with paralysis-related disabilities in the U.S. alone and the daily challenges they face," says Janne Kouri, president and founder of NextStep, a nonprofit organization that operates community-based fitness, health and wellness facilities designed to improve the quality of life for people with paralysis and other physical disabilities. "The vast majority of Americans are not aware of the severity of the problem. It is very difficult to truly understand what someone is going through unless you put yourself in their situation. We also wanted to come up with a way to utilize the power of social media so that participants can share their experience with the world."

Celebrities and athletes will also participate, and NextStep plans to announce who will be involved as the campaign gets under way this month. Each participant's day in a wheelchair will be posted on the Web site as well as NextStep's social media outlets. Participants will also raise funds by sharing their stories on CrowdRise.

"The purpose of the campaign is to educate the American public about how many people suffer from paralysis in the U.S., demonstrate the daily challenges involved with living in a wheelchair, and deliver an urgent wakeup call about the drastic lack of fitness, health and wellness resources that are available to the 6 million Americans with paralysis-related disabilities," says Kouri. "We strongly believe that nobody should have to move to a new community simply to get the fitness services they desperately need for survival. We want to encourage local communities to support the opening of community-based fitness, health and wellness facilities for those living with paralysis."

NextStep, part of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network, offers locomotor and activity-based training, which is an activity-based therapy that builds the areas of weakness versus the areas that retained the most mobility after an injury.