Zimbabwe public transport system not safe and accessible to people with disabilities

30 May, 2017 - 00:05 0 Views
Zimbabwe public transport system not safe and accessible to people with disabilities When buses are fitted with wheelchair ramps getting on a bus with a wheelchair will involve the driver lowering a ramp that is situated at the door. Bus drivers that drive buses with wheelchair ramps should be trained on how to provide guidance for allowing wheelchair users to travel safely.

The Chronicle

When buses are fitted with wheelchair ramps getting on a bus with a wheelchair will involve the driver lowering a ramp that is situated at the door. Bus drivers that drive buses with wheelchair ramps should be trained on how to provide guidance for allowing wheelchair users to travel safely.

When buses are fitted with wheelchair ramps getting on a bus with a wheelchair will involve the driver lowering a ramp that is situated at the door. Bus drivers that drive buses with wheelchair ramps should be trained on how to provide guidance for allowing wheelchair users to travel safely.

Stanford Chiwanga, Online Editor
PUBLIC transportation services in Zimbabwe are not safe and accessible to people with disabilities and this has denied them the right to live independent lives and has cut off a vital lifeline necessary for them to access employment, education, healthcare, and community life.

Zimbabwe has close to 1, 4 million people living with disability. Instead of improvements, they are facing increased difficulties to find income generating opportunities and to access education and health services. Lack of safe and accessible transport is cited as one of the reasons people with disabilities are underprivileged.

Despite successive governments’ efforts since 1980 to provide discrimination protection to people living with disabilities and to make certain that they are not subjected to discrimination under any life activity people living with disabilities are still met with barriers when they try to use public transportation systems namely roads and commuter rail.

The rights of persons with disabilities are specified in the Disability Act, adopted in 1992. Although strong and promising in formulations, it has little, if any, effect on the ground.

Despite the Government’s commitment, transportation services are often not safe and accessible to individuals with disabilities as policies are not implemented and adequate funding is not provided.

It was also discovered that many buses and commuter omnibuses deny people with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs, access. Despite buses having wheelchair bays, people with disabilities complained that they are treated as “second class citizens” by drivers who feel that they waste space and delay the buses.

For people with disabilities – particularly those who use wheelchairs – taxis are also rarely an option as they are not safe and accessible. In cases where they use public transport, the wheelchair bound ones are made to carry their wheelchairs, raising the likelihood of them hurting themselves.

For people with disabilities – particularly those who use wheelchairs – taxis are also rarely an option as they are not safe and accessible. In cases where they use public transport, the wheelchair bound ones are made to carry their wheelchairs, raising the likelihood of them hurting themselves.

For people with disabilities – particularly those who use wheelchairs – taxis are also rarely an option as they are not safe and accessible. In cases where they use public transport, the wheelchair bound ones are made to carry their wheelchairs, raising the likelihood of them hurting themselves.

People living with disabilities revealed that they have long called for the setting up of paratransit services, but the Government and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have not done anything. Paratransit is a public transportation system for people with disabilities who cannot use buses, taxis and commuter omnibuses. These services often feature modified vans that are equipped with lifts to accommodate passengers who use wheelchairs.

Trains and buses in Zimbabwe do not have wheelchair ramps to make them accessible and safe to people with disabilities. People living with disabilities want buses and commuter trains to be modified to accommodate track wheelchair ramps. Track wheelchair ramps are designed to line up with the wheels of the wheelchair some of which use a telescoping design that extends to be used on vehicles. They have also called for the Government to ensure that commuter buses imported into the country that cannot be modified have low floors.

Trains and buses in Zimbabwe do not have wheelchair ramps to make them accessible and safe to people with disabilities. People living with disabilities want buses and commuter trains to be modified to accommodate track wheelchair ramps.

Trains and buses in Zimbabwe do not have wheelchair ramps to make them accessible and safe to people with disabilities. People living with disabilities want buses and commuter trains to be modified to accommodate track wheelchair ramps.

When buses are fitted with wheelchair ramps getting on a bus with a wheelchair will involve the driver lowering a ramp that is situated at the door. Bus drivers that drive buses with wheelchair ramps should be trained on how to provide guidance for allowing wheelchair users to travel safely.

On 23 September 2013 the Government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. That Convention has made people with disabilities hopeful that the Government will do away with transport systems that discriminates them. In separate interviews people with disabilities said the Convention had equipped them with a relevant document from which to lobby and advocate for better living conditions.

Cde Joshua Malinga, a leading disability activist, former chairperson of Disabled People International Zimbabwe and Zanu PF politburo member said sub-standard provision for disabled people is widespread in Zimbabwe. He urged the Government to create a comprehensive plan for providing safe transport services to the disabled.

“Transport is movement, the means to take not only your body but your life forward. It is the difference between working and seeing friends and being trapped in the prison of your own home. We (people with disabilities) want access to public transport as well. Only those with money have easy access to vehicles as they use their private vehicles, the ordinary people out there are suffering. They get injured when getting into vehicles. Zimbabwe must now shift the focus from talking about the rights of people with disabilities and implement the policies. A commitment has been made. It’s time to meet it,” said Cde Malinga.

Sociologist and social commentator, Dr Abel Ndlovu, said without transport people with disability are a “marooned community”.

He said: “Transportation and mobility play key roles in the struggle for rights and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Affordable and reliable transportation allows people with disabilities access to important opportunities in education, employment, health care, housing, and community life. People with disabilities need accessible, affordable transportation options that bring employment, health care, education, housing, and community life within reach. Without transport they are a marooned community cut off from everyday life. If they do not suffer physical harm from trying to access the unfriendly transport system them suffer psychological harm from being denied access.”

Mr Thomas Sibanda, a lawyer, said that the Government must make sure that public transport systems are accessible and safe to people with disabilities as lack of access was a right denied.

“The law is clear that we should not discriminate and that the people with disabilities must access all that is accessible to the so called able bodied people. The Government must ensure that the law is followed to the letter and it should be enforced as a matter not of request, but of requirement. Disabled people still face huge hurdles in using public transport and I advise them to approach the Supreme Court to get a landmark ruling that will force the Government to take proactive steps to address all their concerns. If they get injured trying to access the transport system the law should give them remedy,” he said.

The Disabled Persons Act of Zimbabwe states that: “No disabled person shall, on the ground of his disability alone, be denied – (a) admission into any premises to which members of the public are ordinarily admitted; or (b) the provision of any service or amenity ordinarily provided to members of the public; unless such denial is motivated by a genuine concern for the safety of the disabled person concerned”.

It further declares that: “(3) A disabled person who is denied admission into any premises or the provision of any service or amenity in terms of subsection (1) shall be deemed to have suffered an injuria and shall have the right to recover damages in any court of competent jurisdiction. (4) Any person who, in contravention of subsection (1), denies a disabled person admission into any premises or the provision of any service shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level seven.”

Mr Abraham Mateta, the Disability Rights and Advocacy Officer at the Zimbabwe National League of the Blind said the public transport system in Zimbabwe was hazardous and restrictive to people with disabilities.

“First of all the drivers and touts make it next impossible for people with disabilities to access commuter omnibuses and buses. They have a negative attitude towards us but particularly to people who use wheelchairs. People with wheelchairs are seen as undesirables by buses because it takes time for them to get into the bus. As if that is not enough someone who uses a wheelchair can be made to pay for the wheelchair and for the assistance rendered to him or her when getting into a vehicle. At times we get injured as we get into such vehicles. That is not right.

People who use wheelchairs suffer the most harm when trying to access public transport

People who use wheelchairs suffer the most harm when trying to access public transport

“The other problem is that the buses are not adjustable to make them accessible to us (disabled people). The process of getting into the public transport system is humiliating in that some of us have to be lifted to seats like little children. And the people who carry us are not trained and as a result the possibility of injury is high. We take solace in the fact that the Government rectified the UN Convention on people with disabilities and our hope is that it will soon begin implementing what it agreed on.

“I believe that the state should be seen to be making a deliberate effort to make public transport safe and accessible. We are not saying we should wake up tomorrow with change, the changes should be progressive. The Government runs a fleet of buses through Zupco, I believe if it makes Zupco buses accessible other public transport operators will follow suit. Our concern is that more three months after getting into power there are no indications that the Government is taking steps to fulfill the rights of people with disabilities,” said Mr Mateta.

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