Hundreds of UT students and faculty rolled through campus in wheelchairs Wednesday to demonstrate obstacles faced by those with mobility differences as part of the annual Archer’s Challenge.
Archer Hadley, founder of Archer’s Challenge, invited UT students and faculty to spend the day in a wheelchair and donate to fund accessibility renovations at Austin schools. The goal is to help able-bodied people understand the difficulties of traveling in a wheelchair, Hadley said.
“The purpose of the challenge is to allow students, faculty and staff to have an experience that gives them a new perspective of campus and … the way that we can make changes on campus to make it a more accessible place for all people,” government junior Hadley said.
Hadley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant and has been using a wheelchair since age five. He founded the challenge in 2014 at Austin High School after getting locked out in the rain multiple times because there were no automatic doors.
“I came home and asked my mom, ‘What’s going to happen if we put normal people in wheelchairs so they can experience what it’s like to be me?’” Hadley said.
Archer’s Challenge has raised more than $500,000 since its start and funded accessibility projects at six high schools in Austin. The event, one of many hosted in Austin every year, has been hosted by UT for three years now, Hadley said.
The wheelchairs for the challenge are provided by various manufacturers, including National Seating and Mobility, a company that provides mobility devices.
Students often underestimate moving in a wheelchair, said Gary Plakias, volunteer and assistive technology supplier with NSM.
“A lot of them are not aware of how the chair moves and how much effort it takes to move the chair,” Plakias said.
While traversing campus, corporate communications freshman Emily Kenny said she encountered unexpected challenges because it was her first time in a wheelchair.
“It’s hard to go uphill and go to the restroom,” Kenny said. “I think there are definitely some rooms that would be hard to get into.”
While the challenge emphasizes different experiences, Hadley also wants people to understand the ways abled, disabled and differently abled people are similar.
“I hope everyone gains a new perspective for the world around them … and raise awareness for students like me.” Hadley said.