Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties on the move

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

THE ETHEK­WINI Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s Dial-A-Ride ini­tia­tive has made mov­ing around the city much eas­ier for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

In a bid to en­sure that peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties make a mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion to the main­stream econ­omy, the eThek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has set aside R30 mil­lion for the op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of spe­cially-adapted buses.

Through the Dial-A-Ride fleet ini­tia­tive – in­tro­duced in 2011, com­muters call a cus­tom-de­signed bus to trans­port them to and from their work­place. The ve­hi­cles of­fer a de­mand-re­spon­sive pub­lic trans­port ser­vice for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. About 4 000 peo­ple are reg­is­tered for the ser­vice, with an av­er­age of 2 400 pas­sen­gers a month.

The ser­vice is mainly used by wheel­chair users and vis­ually im­paired peo­ple. eThek­wini Trans­port Author­ity (ETA) Deputy Head for Pub­lic Trans­port, Mlungisi Wosiyana, said Dial-A-Ride was es­tab­lished to ease chal­lenges faced by peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in ac­cess­ing main­stream pub­lic trans­port ser­vices, like buses and taxis.

“The city in­tro­duced the ser­vice as an in­terim mea­sure to ad­dress this chal­lenge,” he said, adding that the doorto-door trans­port ser­vice has been pri­ori­tised for peo­ple who need to get to work. It is also used dur­ing off-peak times to trans­port peo­ple to clin­ics and for so­cial and re­li­gious trips. The buses can be hired and used to trans­port peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to spe­cial events.

The buses, which can ac­com­mo­date be­tween five and seven wheel­chairs and peo­ple on crutches in fixed seats, have SABS-ap­proved hy­draulic lifts to en­sure safety. Ten of the fleet’s 12 ve­hi­cles are fully op­er­a­tional. The other two are only used when there is a de­mand. Be­cause safety is of para­mount im­por­tance, the ve­hi­cles’ road­wor­thi­ness is reg­u­larly checked and the driv­ers have been given ve­hi­cle and pas­sen­ger care train­ing.

One of the Dial-A-Ride com­muters, Sbon­iso Dlamini, who uses the ser­vice to travel to work ev­ery day, said the buses are a re­lief. “The driv­ers help us get into the bus and fas­ten our seat belts. With pub­lic taxis, we are not given even the chance to sit be­cause taxi driv­ers are al­ways rush­ing to pick up at the next stop,” he said.

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