Here at GoMetro, we are all about improving the way you move and, every now and then, an item in the news warms our heart with the good work some in SA are doing to further that too. It reminds us that ‘improving moving’ is not just about getting the average commuter to work on time or seamlessly integrating transport options – it is a grand equaliser that can offer people dignity, hope and a future where there was none.
Nowhere is this more pertinent than with the disabled. While many of us experience irritation with transport According to the South African Board for People Practises, 4.3 percent of SA is disabled. A 2011 national census had sadder figures – a disability prevalence of 7.5 percent in the country. That means arguably more than 4 million South Africans do not have a right to an equal life of employment, education, healthcare and respect.
The World Bank put it really well in an article in 2015: “For many persons with disabilities, this is a daily struggle that is all too real: a large proportion of urban and inter-urban transport systems remain either completely off-limits or incredibly difficult to use for passengers with disabilities, turning even the shortest trip into a logistical nightmare.
“Mobility constraints are a major obstacle to disability-inclusive development, as they exacerbate the economic, social, and personal isolation of persons with disabilities, and tend to push them further into poverty.
“But the opposite is also true: coupled with interventions in other areas, mobility improvements can go a long way in changing the lives of persons with disabilities for the better. ‘You have to think of transport as an equalizer, a catalyst that facilitates access to many other sectors,’ said Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, the World Bank’s Global Advisor on Disability. ‘Mobility improvements are key because transport gives you access to jobs, schools, healthcare, markets, leisure.’”
This is why we were really happy to see a great organisation acknowledged recently by the government – GO GEORGE. The GO GEORGE bus service was showcased as example at national disability rights meeting recently, as reported by RNEWS.
The GO GEORGE bus service was presented as a case study of the integrated public transport network that has made most progress in moving towards universal access (UA) in public transport at the annual National Disability Rights Machinery (NDRM) meeting recently held in Pretoria, and attended by key government officials, reviews progress and discusses legislation, action programmes and future developments on the rights of people with disabilities.
According to Amanda Gibberd, responsible for universal design and universal access in the National Department of Transport, the Department recommended that GO GEORGE be chosen as the best example to present at the meeting.
“GO GEORGE is the integrated public transport network (IPTN) that has showed the most progress in reaching universal accessible public transport, with the smallest amount of grant funding of all the 13 IPTN municipalities receiving funding. GO GEORGE has demonstrated commitment and dedication to implementing an accessible transport system for the entire municipal network and continues to improve the passenger journey and experience. That is what we notice and appreciate, and what we wanted to convey to the other stakeholders at the NDRM meeting,” she said.
According to James Robb, GO GEORGE Manager, the meeting went very well – the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services particularly commended GO GEORGE for elements like the ReadSpeaker function on their website which helps those with visual disabilities.
“They encouraged continued consideration of these kinds of communication aids. The disability sector made a renewed call upon stakeholders to be consulted when planning UA elements, which we fully support. As a matter of fact, consulting people with disabilities when designing and refining the GO GEORGE service and accessibility elements has become part of the process,” said Robb.
What we love about Go George is that it’s another stakeholder that is helping us live up to our amazing constitution. Under South African law and in terms of international commitments that have been made, passengers with different ways of moving (children, young people, the elderly, people with disabilities, people carrying babies or shopping, pregnant women, etc.) must be able to use public transport services with dignity. This has not been a reality for a long time for disabled South Africans, and we have a ways yet to catch up on privatised innovations that favour the disabled happening elsewhere, such as in London where Uber offers a range of accessibility features for people with vision impairments, mobility issues or who are deaf or hard of hearing, like the UberWAV app for wheelchair users and UberASSIST which helps to train drivers on how to accommodate assistive technology, such as wheelchairs and scooters.
… And now a hardworking local initiative is getting some recognition too. Viva Go George, viva!