It is difficult for most of us to appreciate how difficult ordinary, everyday activities are for those in wheelchairs should they, say, be caught short. For that was the problem facing the Billabong on our most recent visit.
You would need an ordinance survey map to find the remote Special Education Centre (SEC) in Ban Bueng, for it is nestled in the middle of an agricultural area farming sugar cane, rice and tapioca. There is not another building in sight. But when you do arrive you are assured of a warm welcome by the effervescent Kak and her staff who run the centre.
350 disabled children, either mentally or physically, are registered with SEC but, by employing an open door policy, there are normally about 100 children in attendance on any particular day. The Billabong have become regular visitors to the SEC recently having donated funds for the purchase of computers which project images on to a screen or wall which can then be moved with just a touch of the screen, for education is the centre’s prime concern.
To help their general education they also have a mini zoo and an adventure room which provide insights into life in a temple, beach, market or jungle. But the problem we were faced with was around the eating area. Stretching for about 100 yards, this area had only one disabled toilet at the one end but conventional toilets at both ends.
Usain Bolt could run 100 yards in just over 9 seconds but those in wheelchairs have a different problem. The answer was simple – convert 2 ordinary toilets into one to accommodate those in wheelchairs. This to include a shower, hand basin, the appropriate hand bars for safety, and the problem was solved much to the pleasure of Kak and those that were immediately effected by the change. The smile on everybody’s face said it all.
The centre’s most recent innovation – To invite physically handicapped people from all over Thailand to study for 6 months altering, making and designing clothes to enable them to return to their villages to generate some income for their families. A brilliant idea.