Disableds’ uphill battle in the city

ca pg12 wheelchair and pavements DONE INLSA A wheelchair-bound man battles over a city kerb

Joseph Booysen

CONSUMER REPORTER

ORGANISATIONS for the disabled say a lot more needs to be done in Cape Town and other SA cities to make them easier for the disabled to live in.

The director of the Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled, Bridget van der Merwe, said many more people and decision makers needed to be made aware of the plight of the disabled in Cape Town.

She said the disabled had a role to play and more of them should join up with organisations that deal with these matters.

“You must never be a lonely voice; there are other avenues to add your voice to highlight the problem,” said Van der Merwe.

The chief executive of Disabled People SA, Jabulane Blose, said SA was far from accommodating when it came to access for people with disabilities.

“We might have access in a sense, but without quality. Pavements are not ramped and public transport is futile as it is not accessible,” he said.

“For a decade we have been making a case for safe, reliable and accessible transport for persons with disabilities, precisely in answer to these indignities.

“It’s a case that basically suggests we need universal access across the board, and in particular for wheelchair users and partially blind persons; (we also need) user-friendly handrails and generally clearer information and signage for deaf persons and those with learning disabilities.”

Philip Bam, executive director of the League of Friends of the Blind said that although the organisation was committed to training blind people to travel independently, “much more needs to be done”.

“For this to be successful, public transport must be designed in such a way that it is accessible to disabled persons, especially visually impaired people,” said Bam.

He added that public address announcements on stations must be clear as these are sometimes difficult to hear amid all the noise.

“Even in buses and trains, announcements should be made as it becomes difficult for blind people to detect the stations to ensure that they can get off at the correct destination.”

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA announced major transport upgrades and developments worth billions recently, and this would include better access for the disabled.

Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport, roads and stormwater, said the City of Cape Town was striving to make all public transport more universally accessible to help the elderly and disabled, as well as mothers with prams, on their daily commute.

“Developments in this regard have already been seen in the MyCiTi buses, where the stations offer level boarding for all passengers, as well as tactile flooring for the blind to guide them to the buses and audio loops for the hard of hearing.

“In order to continue this trend, smaller, low-floor buses with an extendable boarding ramp are being built to be used on the bus routes that run in normal traffic, where people board on the left from the pavement – thereby improving accessibility.”

Herron said the city was also engaging with Metrorail about improving universal accessibility on trains.

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