UT students take up challenge to use wheelchair for the day

Archer Hadley (KXAN Photo)
Archer Hadley (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sophomore Sydne Fowler sat down in her wheelchair at 10 a.m. Tuesday. She navigated the University of Texas at Austin campus with unease, having to deviate from her normal route to find a ramp or wheelchair-accessible entrance.

To say it was difficult would be an understatement. But at 6 p.m., just like several other students around campus, she returned her wheelchair and walked away.

Fowler, a member of the track team at UT, is an eager participant in Archer’s Challenge, which gives students and staff a new perspective on what it’s like to be in a wheelchair. “The first thing you have to do when you get your chair is go down a ramp and I didn’t know it was so hard to control the breaks,” Fowler said, adding she’s a “pretty bad” driver, breaker and steerer in general.

“Within the first two minutes of doing it, I was like, ‘this is so hard.’ It’s a whole new respect for people who have to do this on a daily basis,” she said.

Archer Hadley, left, leading Archer's Challenge at the University of Texas at Austin campus on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
Archer Hadley, left, leading Archer’s Challenge at the University of Texas at Austin campus on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

The challenge, spanning Monday through Saturday, is in support of the Rosedale School, which serves students with disabilities.

Archer Hadley, who has cerebral palsy and is a sophomore at UT, said this all started two years ago, “Your education reporter Erin Cargile has been a great supporter of mine and when I started the project at my high school it was a great success, I raised over $90,000. Those are the origins of the project.”

“I hope that the people participating take away that being in a wheelchair can be an empowering lifestyle, an empowering experience. It can be something new, different and special, and that they don’t take for granted the mobility that they do have,” Hadley said.

He hopes the project gets people more aware of the world around them, including people in wheelchairs that need their assistance — to open a door, to get an item off a shelf or whatever it may be. “Because we all live in this one world together and we need to help each other.”

In March 2015, Hadley went to the White House to attend a screening of a documentary on how he led the charge to install automatic push button doors at Austin High School.

For more information on the project and to donate, visit ArchersChallenge.com. 

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