TV presenter Lorraine Keane said it was “really emotional” getting into a wheelchair for the first time as she helped drum up funds for Spinal Injuries Ireland.
Part of a 25-strong group made up of celebrities, businesspeople and politicians taking part in the inaugural ‘A Day In My Wheels Challenge’, Keane wanted to experience for a day first-hand the challenges facing wheelchair users.
“For me, it’s only one day but for people in wheelchairs, they have to have someone assisting them for the first few months of it just to get the hang of it,” she said.
“I’m just counting my blessings that I’m just doing it for 24 hours. It’s not going to be an easy day. Today is about highlighting the facilities that are not accessible. And also to highlight the services in the city that are.”
While her daily dip in Monkstown was not an option, she was going to the hairdressers before getting the Dart back to her southside home, with the poor weather conditions making for a challenging day.
“I have to call them four hours in advance to let them know what train I’m going to be on. What if you miss the train or if it’s delayed? I have friends who are in wheelchairs and they have highlighted the good, the bad and the ugly, so I’m going to put some of those to the test.
“I’m going to try and get through the city on footpaths because I’ve heard on bin day, people in wheelchairs know not to go out. That is just horrific. Avoiding dog poo is another issue; when you’re putting your hands on your wheels, that’s not very nice.”
PR expert Valerie Roe was also taking part in the challenge and said that “not being able to stop” was her biggest fear.
She was being joined by wheelchair user Olan McGowan for the day.
“I met Olan in Lillie’s Bordello years ago. He jumped into the 40 Foot years ago and hit his head on a rock and ended up in rehab for a long time and we would be really good friends. We’re going to go to Temple Bar, we’re going to get into taxis and get a good feel for what it would be like to be in wheels for the day,” she said.
Other participants include the Junior Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan, alongside Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Cathaoirleach Lettie McCarthy, comedian Joe Rooney and broadcaster Clare McKenna.
Some businesspeople had donated €5,000 to take part in the challenge, with a goal of €100,000 set by organisers Spinal Injuries Ireland (SII) after its funding was “obliterated” by the pandemic.
SII CEO Fiona Bolger said it gives people a “tiny glimpse” into what life is like living with a spinal cord injury, with SII currently supporting over 2,100 people.
“It’s not the full picture. I’m spending the day in the chair but I can step out of it at any stage and do something. Whereas obviously if you’re paralysed, you can’t do that. And I don’t have all the hidden injuries that some people with spinal injuries sometimes have,” she said.
Donations can be made at www.spinalinjuries.ie