Shepherd Center Celebrates International Wheelchair Day
By Victoria Dean, PT, DPT, NCS, ATP, a physical therapist in Shepherd Center’s Assistive Technology Center
People often overlook the positive impact of a wheelchair; however, a wheelchair allows individuals a sense of freedom and the ability to live their life. That’s why today, Shepherd Center is celebrating its first annual International Wheelchair Day.
International Wheelchair Day was founded in 2008 by Steve Wilkinson. Steve was diagnosed with spina bifida at the age of two, and after decades of trying to maintain his ability to walk, he realized the freedom a wheelchair offers. International Wheelchair Day celebrates the possibilities provided by a wheelchair for the user, honors the people who work in the wheelchair industry and advocate for accessibility, and recognizes the millions of people across the world who need a wheelchair, but do not have access.
As Pete Anziano, peer support manager at Shepherd Center, says, “On International Wheelchair Day, I celebrate our evolving perspective on the wheelchair and the freedom mine offers my family and me to engage in life in a way meaningful beyond preconceived notions. The wheelchair gets my body there so my mind and spirit can engage.”
Shepherd Center’s Assistive Technology Center (ATC), in collaboration with its Peer Support team, has organized the first annual International Wheelchair Day at the hospital. The ATC encompasses the Wheelchair Seating and Mobility Clinic, the Driver Rehabilitation Program, Computer Access and Environmental Control Program, and Rehab Equipment. These departments all provide vital support to new and experienced wheelchair users within the Shepherd Center community to participate in activities that matter most to them.
Shepherd Center’s Wheelchair Seating and Mobility Clinic, where I work, provides manual and power wheelchair recommendations and fittings, posture evaluations, pressure mapping, wheelchair skills training, and education on the use of wheelchairs in everyday life. With approximately 3,000 visits each year, we see individuals of all diagnoses and receive referrals from all over Georgia and surrounding states.
Before joining Shepherd Center, I was primarily an outpatient neuro physical therapist. When I was offered the Wheelchair Seating and Mobility Clinic position in 2019, I was uncertain about my ability to specialize in this field. After working in seating for the past year, I can honestly say that I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. A wheelchair offers so many of our clients the ability to function, return to their day-to-day activities, return to work, have the energy to play with their kids, gain independence with mobility and prioritize the aspects of life that are important to them. I am excited to celebrate and start the annual tradition of celebrating International Wheelchair Day at Shepherd Center!
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.