Gauteng News

Gauteng government increases access to transport for people living with disabilities

Lerato Mailoane

Residents living at the province’s Independent Living Centres in Mofolo, Soweto will now be able to get around much easier with the help of a lift bus all the way from Japan.

The Independent Living Centre is a Non-Governmental Organisation that seeks to assist physically disabled people to live independently. Both the centre and vehicle are pilot projects of the Department of Social Development in partnership with Disabled People International, an NGO from Japan.

The lift bus will have a special feeder service for persons with disabilities from Braamfisherville and Soweto who currently have no access to public transport.

Though the Department of Social Development is currently piloting the new transport mode at the centres it plans to make the buses available to more commuters to increase accessibility to public transport for people living with disabilities.

The bus currently ferries residents of the centre to their nearest BRT station as there are no BRT feeder routes currently  operational in selected areas of Soweto and Braamfisherville.

Self Help Association of Paraplegics (SHAP) Committee member also living at the centre, Dan Kekana said since the centre’s launch, its location makes it difficult for someone who is in a wheelchair to access wheelchair friendly areas.

He explains that previously the centre had transportation problems as our buses were old and needed to be fixed to transport the staff and residents as they mostly found it hard using public transport

“There is a dire need for this transport for someone who’s wheelchair bound and I am happy that this project will be piloted here and it will greatly improve the lives of the people living here,” he said.

He said: “It is important to have this mode of transport as this place provides Soweto residents that are physically challenged with critical services such as peer counselling, personal assistance programmes and support groups to help them with the challenges they face as we have different disabilities.”

Social Development MEC, Nandi Mayathula Khoza said the taxi is a second-hand Nissan that accommodates two passengers in wheelchairs plus seven others, including the driver. “It has a new type of lift that is stable and comfortable thereby increasing their safety.

The vehicle was customised in Japan and was donated by the DPI Japan.

“We are confident that this pilot will help us fill in gaps between persons with mobility restrictions and accessible transportation networks. We expect it at its optimal to be a flexible feeder service connecting to networks such as Rea Vaya and Gautrain. It is expected to be piloted in Soweto as well as in Ekurhuleni.”