A legendary quadaplegic, who used his heart and mouth to change minds and raise awareness about the challenges and successes of the disabled, has died.
Taswell Williams, a resident at Beaconvale Community Frail Care Centre in Beacon Valley, never kept quiet when witnessing an injustice and was determined to lead by example.
He died after succumbing to sickness on Tuesday June 28.
Mr Williams founded Reabled, an organisation run by people with disabilities.
“Once Taswell made up his mind to do something he would go full steam ahead and see it through to completion. He was fearless and had a will to succeed,” said member Linda Lewis.
In a tribute shared with co-member Elizabeth Maphike Kok, the duo said he taught them many things, from writing reports, proposals and sending programmes, learnership courses and college to become peer supporters to design a programme with the help of the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre social workers, as well as a caregivers course enabling disabled people to reach out to each other in time of need.
Ms Lewis said to some he became a brother, others a friend, colleague or hero.
“In doing so, he opened many doors for permanent employment for the disabled.
“He was hard working, stubborn and strict in ensuring that we reach our full potential,” she said.
Ms Lewis said being a quadriplegic did not discourage him but rather pushed him to fight for his worth.
“Thank you Taswell for imparting your knowledge with us and giving of yourself freely. We embrace the knowledge you bestowed upon us comrade and will continue with your good works,” she said.
Ms Maphike Kok said: “We salute you.”
The highlight for the Reabled Team was Mr Williams organising the annual Outeniqua wheelchair challenge, in George.
He would see that everyone had the best transportation, hotel accommodation with bed and breakfast in George and Mosselbay. The race takes place in October.
Mr Williams served as secretary for Disabled People South Africa’s (DPSA) provincial general assembly, provincial council and provincial executive committee issuing notices, taking minutes and doing general administrative duties for the last eight years.
By virtue of his position as provincial secretary he also served on the association’s national council.
DPSA’s Elroy Lodewyk said Mr Taswell also served on Disabled Youth South Africa (DYSA), which is a youth focus group of the association.
He was the provincial deputy chairperson of DYSA from 2012 until 2016.
“He has always been actively involved in the disability sector with various organisations,” said Mr Lodewyk.
Anthony Ghillino, general manager of QuadPara Association Western Cape (QAWC), said Mr Williams was a very special person with the potential to influence and change people’s perceptions and ideas, particularly relating to people with disabilities.
“Taswell embraced many of the opportunities that QAWC offered to members, with him participating in our road safety campaign, attending workshops and graduating from our Digital Village,” he said.
The QAWC Management quickly identified that Mr Williams had the gift of being a good communicator and that when he spoke, people listened.
He became a key member of the QAWC awareness team, travelling around the province visiting schools and sharing his powerful testimony of his life before his injury and most importantly, his life, challenges and achievements in his time as a wheelchair user.
“Not only was Taswell’s message an important one, but his message was delivered in an honest and real way, with his strong and unique sense of humour shining through.
”It was evident that Taswell was a natural and passionate leader and it was no surprise when he was elected to serve on the QAWC Board,“ said Mr Ghillino.
During his time on the board Mr Williams made a meaningful contribution, with all decisions aimed towards having a positive impact on the lives of wheelchair users in the province.
He grew and developed his knowledge and skill set.
He actively sought opportunities to assist people with disabilities in his immediate community.
Mr Ghillino said they took great delight in watching Mr Williams grow, become a leader and an influencer in his community.
“Improving the circumstances of people with disabilities was his passion and the amount of people who have benefited from his influence is significant.
“Taswell was a revolutionary, not afraid to speak out or put his neck on the line for the cause who impacted on society as a whole and on the community of people with impairments in particular.
His energy, drive and passion was contagious and will be missed,“ he said.
Mr Williams’s funeral will be at Beacon Valley Baptist Church, opposite the centre, on Saturday July 9 from 8am.
For more information call Ms Lewis on 078 106 9453.