In the sporting world, injuries do happen and on rare occasions the athletes are rendered unable to walk. One notable example is Sir Frank Williams, founder of the Williams F1 team. Admittedly, able-bodied people find it extremely difficult to look at everyday life from a disabled person’s perspective.
Back in 2015, former Sauber F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi partnered with Red Bull’s Wings for Life to live a full day as a wheelchair user. When he spoke about the experience, the Japanese driver admitted that it isn’t the first time he sat in a wheelchair. He revealed that he broke his leg when he was young, so he is somewhat familiar. However, when he got back into the wheelchair, reality hit him like a brick wall.
How did the former F1 driver manage without his legs?
The Japanese driver revealed that it was extremely difficult just to use his arms and upward slopes were especially hard. On the other hand, he found it easier to navigate through barrier-free areas. While he wasn’t on a wheelchair for long, Kobayashi empathised with physically challenged people.
Some of the positives of the experience was, learning new skills to manage everyday life. One example is learning a special technique to operate doors without it hitting the wheelchair or rolling backwards. Additionally, the ex F1 driver faced another nightmare for wheelchair users, kerbs. In an F1 car, going on a kerb is easy, but on a wheelchair, it is much harder without falling off.
Eventually, his hands started to become sore from pushing it all day, and he even had to contend with navigating through crowds. For wheelchair users, crowds can get a bit intimidating owing to the massive height difference and people often don’t look where they are going.
He concluded, “Seeing the world from a wheelchair is very different. You spend your life looking up and it feels strange. Its scary when a whole crown comes towards me. Many people were staring at their phones and not paying attention to anyone around them. I found it difficult to cope with.”
Even banal tasks like accessing an ATM machine is a chore for wheelchair users. Once again, this is largely because of the height difference.