Chaeli’s life is wheelchair-enabled

Chaeli, centre, at the Bulletin's 40th birthday in September 2015 with mom Zelda Mycroft and Bulletin advertising rep Lauren Mushfieldt.

Michaela “Chaeli” Mycroft has never known life without a wheelchair, but that hasn’t stopped her from standing strong and helping others.

“I don’t know what life is with the ability to walk independently. I think that has helped me to live life for the now and not what we could have had. I am still able to achieve what I put my mind to, simply with some assistance,” said Chaeli on the eve of International Wheelchair Day.

Born with cerebral palsy, Chaeli Mycroft sees her disability as a unique opportunity to advocate for others with disabilities.

At the age of 9, Chaeli and her friends raised money to buy her a motorised wheelchair. The success of this inspired the Plumstead-based Chaeli Campaign, a nonprofit organisation that supports the mobility and educational needs of disabled children.

Since its founding in 2004, the Chaeli Campaign has helped more than 10 000 disabled children get equipment and physical therapy. It runs a fully-fledged inclusive preschool and eight support programmes.

Chaeli has taken part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour and ascended Kilimanjaro. In 2011, she received the International Children’s Peace Prize and in 2013 she won the World of Children Youth Award.

Chaeli also enjoys ballroom dancing and speaks around the world as an ability activist. All this in between studying at UCT.

Asked about the challenges of being in a wheelchair she says, “Yes, you do see the pity-stares and the looks of misunderstanding where people don’t think you can be happy and live a full life whilst living in a wheelchair.

“But this is where I think we need to be moving the conversation – away from seeing the wheelchair as a problem towards viewing it as a tool for empowerment.

“I’m not wheelchair-bound, I’m wheelchair-enabled.”