Disability no barrier as Rowbottom announces ‘tough and painful’ Med Steps charity challenge
This September Eric Rowbottom will leave his wheelchair at Jew’s Gate and climb Mediterranean Steps using his hands to drag his body up in a gruelling challenge in aid of the Special Needs Action Group (SNAG) and the GBC Open Day Fund.
Mr Rowbottom, aged 59, contracted polio at eight years old and has since relied on a wheelchair to get around.
The challenge will see him train over the next three months and, while he does so, fundraise with a target of £100,000, having so far raised over £15,000.
For Mr Rowbottom, the challenge is an opportunity to make real change and raise awareness about special needs in Gibraltar.
As he announced his goal, he recognised it was not a challenge for the faint-hearted.
At the launch in the World Trade Center on Thursday, Mr Rowbottom was applauded for his commitment, with attendees commenting on the ambition and determination he has shown.
Mr Rowbottom knows it will be painful, arduous and exhausting, but it is a challenge he has wanted to do for years and he understands the severity and physical toll it will take.
His ‘Eric-Med Steps-Power’ (E-M-Power) challenge will see him complete a distance of 1.4km with an elevation of 240m.
“I’m going to lift and bump myself all the way up from Jews Gate to O’Hara’s Battery,” he told the Chronicle.
There will be essential services such as the fire brigade, police and ambulance on hand just in case.
“I wanted to be ambitious in the [£100,000] target, as it’s an ambitious challenge so it needed to match,” he said.
Mr Rowbottom has never been to Med Steps before and does not plan to go there before the challenge, instead researching his route to O’Hara’s Battery on Google Maps.
His aim is solely to complete the climb and he gave no promises on how long it will take.
“I’ve always had one motto in my mind and it’s this: one disability, many abilities,” Mr Rowbottom told the crowd.
“That’s how I’ve lived my life. I’ve used all the abilities that have to get on with this because to be very honest, our society and our community throughout the years has not made it easy for disabled people to integrate into our society.”
“I have been involved in numerous organisations and charities practically my entire life and my main focus has always been to raise awareness of any issues.”
“That is very, very important. We need to talk about [disabilities], we cannot put this to one side, we need to bring this into the air, into the public domain.”
Throughout his life, Mr Rowbottom has strived to ensure his physical disability is no barrier. He is a father of two and grandfather of seven, a musician, a photographer and has worked for 38 years in Gibtelecom.
His message for people with disabilities is that they can achieve their goals. His aim is to make Gibraltar a truly inclusive place.
As he announced his plans to climb Med Steps unassisted, stunned gasps and applause could be heard.
“I will be leaving my chair at the bottom of Jew’s Gate and I will be dragging myself all the way up, just using my upper body strength,” he told the crowd.
“I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be tough and very painful.”
“The terrain is rough. Stones, pebbles, sand and it’s going to be quite an awesome thing to do.”
He added: “It’s going to be an arduous challenge, a difficult challenge, but I chose it for a particular reason.”
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time and thanks to the SNAG team here and a few individuals that are here right now it’s becoming a reality.”
Mr Rowbottom described how a challenge of this calibre mirrors the challenges disabled people find daily.
“Being a disabled person anywhere in the world is tiring, [and] sometimes in Gibraltar… it’s exhausting. It really is,” he said.
“Since I started my campaign many years ago, I’ve seen a lot of change, a lot of positive change, but we can’t sit of our laurels.”
He encouraged the public to hold their own events to raise awareness and funds.
At the event, Atrish Sanchez from SNAG commended Mr Rowbottom, adding his challenge will raise awareness of key issues regarding special needs in Gibraltar.
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