Art as Cultural Diplomacy
The ICD “Wheels on Ice” Project
The “Wheels on Ice” program brings together children, families, and friends from diverse backgrounds and cultures with one thing in common – the belief that having a disability does not have to be impairment.
On the first Saturday of every month, children with disabilities that have confined them to wheelchairs gather at an ice rink in Berlin for an afternoon of ice skating, friendship and fun. Using the invention of Mr. Marc Bogaerts, the “ice wheelchair”- a wheelchair with skating blades instead of wheels – these children can skate on the ice, with the assistance of a friend or family member who provides the forward propulsion and steering. The exhilaration and enjoyment of participants is obvious on their faces and the friendships and bonds that are created are invaluable.
Participants and their families not only enjoy the exhilaration of skating, but they also form a community of friends that understand and appreciate the challenges and opportunities of having a disability.
In addition, throughout the year, Wheels on Ice organizes events ranging from hockey games, to dancing lessons, to performances for the participants to enjoy.
Hockey Games – Professional hockey players donate their afternoon to play with and coach participants using the ice wheelchair. Children of all ages and skills are welcome. The day culminates with a full 6 vs. 6 hockey game with parents, siblings and friends cheering them on!
Ice Dancing – Renowned ice dancers and choreographers work with participants over several weeks to develop an ice dance routine. No experience or skills required! Final performances take place at the end of the program highlighting the beauty and art of the experience.
The program was developed to create a recreational opportunity, but more importantly, to facilitate communication and understanding between the different cultural communities that exist within the disabled community. Though participants come from different worlds – different ethnicities, different religions, even different languages - they all share the challenges, the victories, the frustrations and the joys of living with limited mobility. Understanding and relating to one another despite significant differences creates a united community.