Cam­panile passes test

Coun­cil­lor puts him­self in hot seat for aware­ness cam­paign

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Ri­aan Marais maraisr@ti­soblack­star.co.za

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.

Pic­ture: RI­AAN MARAIS

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

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