Cape Town - It took a single tweet by a wheelchair user for the City of Cape Town to relook at the accessibility of public transport throughout the city.
Whilma Liedeman, who has been wheelchair bound since an accident 16 years ago, started looking for work in 2009.
When she finally got a job in Montague Gardens she found, however, that inaccessible public transport had prevented her from travelling between her Atlantis home and her job.
Out of this frustration she tweeted mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron in October last year. The tweet was a challenge: can you spend a day in a wheelchair while navigating Cape Town’s streets and public transport hubs?
Herron accepted and in April Liedeman joined him on a wheelchair tour of the CBD.
“Spending four hours in a wheelchair opened my eyes to what wheelchair users face daily,” Herron said.
The experience had encouraged him and his staff to compile a draft universal access policy (which is about the elimination and reduction of access barriers through design) and to make funding available for an audit of taxi ranks, bus stops and other transport infrastructure around the city.
In February, 20 disabled people, including people with sight and hearing impairments, will be employed through the Expanded Public Works Programme to carry out an “accessibility” audit. They will be paired with able-bodied partners and the first phase will include central business districts in Cape Town, Bellville, Wynberg, Claremont and Fish Hoek.