Benalla students participated in the inaugural Walk In My Shoes event to gain awareness of the challenges of living with a disability.By Monique Freer
Students took to the streets of Benalla last week in a bid to understand first-hand the challenges of living with a disability.
The inaugural Walk In My Shoes event was held last Wednesday, with about 40 Benalla P-12 College students ‘‘adopting’’ six disabilities in a two-hour trek around town.
The event was a joint project by Benalla Access and Awareness Group and U3A Benalla, and BAAG volunteer Rod Squires said it was a fantastic way for students to gain awareness of the impact of a disability.
‘‘It’s an interactive training program for people to understand what it’s like to have a disability,’’ Mr Squires said.
‘‘When kids are this age they’re often bulletproof, nothing impacts them, so it gives them a real understanding of the impact of disabilities.’’
The program was borne this year after the success of the Realistic Race in April, which was designed for groups of key people who are involved with, or make decisions impacting on people with a disability.
Mr Squires said some of the Realistic Race participants from Benalla P-12 College thought it would be a good program to introduce into the school.
‘‘They have a program that aligned with community involvement and it just sort of eminated from that,’’ he said.
Students were split into groups of six or seven with a staff member or community volunteer, and donned each of six simulated disabilities for 15 minutes.
Headphones were worn to simulate hearing impairment; a blindfold and cane were used to demonstrate vision impairment; an mp3 player played a recording represented schizophrenia, students had a tie around their legs for hobbling, and they each had to use a wheelchair and a walking frame.
‘‘There are a lot of hidden disabilities out there — particularly mental illness, it’s something that you just don’t see,’’ Mr Squires said.
‘‘It’s good to get the kids involved and it shows community spirit.’’
The groups had to complete activities across Benalla to give them a thorough understanding of the challenges that disability can present in everyday life.
Throughout the day students made observations about the things that would assist those with disabilities, and things they thought disabled persons required.
Mr Squires said FCJ College was planning to run the event shortly and St Joseph’s Primary School would look at a similar program next year.
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