Neil Gray-Rivers normally functions without a wheelchair.
But since joining something called Archer's Challenge, it's changed his perspective. "Today's been difficult I had to wake up at 6 am, come in. The time me getting here and preparing. I didn't factor in how often I'd be in this wheelchair. So me going to the restroom, mini kitchen, getting lunch has challenged me throughout the day. Also the physical nature of it. We have a pretty accessible office but the message of Archer's challenge about inclusion and independence but the ability to access a door or a bathroom I think everyone's been noticing different bumps and how wide the door is of the corners."
Archer’s Challenge is an Austin-wide charity event highlighting hardships that individuals who are in wheelchairs have to face each day, allowing volunteers to "navigate your world from a wheelchair" for a day. Archer Hadley, the co-founded Archer’s Challenge, alongside his mother.
"So Archer's Challenge was sort of born out of, I guess, necessity in a way and also kind of frustration. I had been asking Austin Independent School District to install automatic doors at my high school even before I came. Three and a half years went by and nothing happened,” he says.
Unlike Neil, Archer Hadley doesn't have to make a decision on how he gets around each day, because he only has one choice. "I was a senior and I was really, really tired of getting stuck outside by myself just not able to get into school. I definitely got stuck in the rain multiple times. I was getting soaking wet, all this kind of stuff, got sick multiple times. I came home, and I told my mom that I had gotten soaking wet on this one particular day and she said 'well what can we do, to kind of, we need to push them to install these doors, how can that happen.”
So this week, 20 employees at Google in Austin stood up to the challenge. Neil says he had his regular work schedule but things he'd normally do, he'd have to allot extra time beforehand to be on time.
I asked Neil, what happens when he and his coworkers return the wheelchairs and go back to regular life? "I think you'll either go back and start making a change or take action. What’s been very interesting is everyone wants to help out so. I think it's been pretty good but there still needs to be a message of what we can constantly do as a company,” Neil says.
Archer says he's thrilled big companies like Google are on board to make a change.
He says his ultimate goal is to work with builders and designers to make new projects "Archer Approved" to create more possibilities for folks with disabilities.