Campanile passes test
Councillor puts himself in hot seat for awareness campaign
PORT Elizabeth’s revitalised iconic Campanile scored top marks yesterday for now being able to welcome visitors it could not in the past. Before the Campanile’s revamp, a wheelchair-bound visitor would not have made it past the entrance hall at the bottom of the 50m bell tower.
However, mayoral committee member for economic development, tourism and agriculture Andrew Whitfield yesterday wheeled his way to the seventh floor of the historic structure, skipping the 206 steps it usually takes to reach the observation deck.
“This [yesterday] morning’s initiative helped us to highlight many of the things we have done right to make our city as wheelchair-friendly as possible, but also showed us that there are still many things we need to do to improve accessibility for people with disabilities,” Whitfield said.
“This experience has shown us how important something as little as a crack in the road, or raising awareness among motorists, is to a person making use of a wheelchair.”
Whitfield’s journey, with the help of Association for Persons with Disabilities (APD) executive director Brian Bezuidenhout, started on the fourth floor of the Noninzi Luzipho building (previously Pleinhuis), where he left his office in a wheelchair and made his way down via the lift and onto the street.
His first challenge was crossing Baakens Street to reach Vuyisile Mini Square, at City Hall, due to a lack of ramps onto the pavement.
After crossing the square, Whitfield took a detour through Kwantu Towers, down a lift to the underground parking area, and up a ramp to reach Strand Street.
Reaching the Campanile from there was easy – except for taxis choosing to ignore a red light at a foot crossing.
The ramp at the tower’s front door, and the newly installed lift made the last stretch of his journey simple.
“If I had to give this experience a rating I would go with eight out of 10,” Whitfield said. “We did identify some challenges along the way, but the Campanile itself is perfect.
“It is great to know that this historic and cultural site can be shared with people with disabilities.”
Bezuidenhout commended the municipality for its involvement in the APD’s awareness campaigns.
“This year’s campaign is based in leadership and it is great to see our city’s leaders getting involved in our initiatives,” he said.
“Most of the MMCs [members of the mayoral committee] have spent time in a wheelchair this year and next week the mayor himself will be joining us.”
He said initiatives like the Campanile renovations also helped people with a range of mobility limitations, like older and frail individuals.
Campanile-based tour guide Lungelo Ngabaza said he welcomed the opportunity to raise awareness about the monument and the recent changes that made it more accessible.
“The more awareness we raise, the more visitors we will get and that in turn could lead to job creation as more tour guides will be needed.
“I love every chance I get to share my knowledge about the city and its heritage with visitors,” Ngabaza said.
NEW PERSPECTIVE: Tour guide Lungelo Ngabaza explains to mayoral committee member Andrew Whitfield how the Campanile’s ghost bells work during Whitfield’s mission to explore the challenges disabled people face