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Sunday / 14 July 2024
HomeNewsBig changes coming to parking lots, airports, and train stations in South Africa

Big changes coming to parking lots, airports, and train stations in South Africa

Several actions are currently underway to improve access to mobility for persons with disabilities in South Africa across all forms of transport.

Delivering the keynote address at the Transport Summit on Universal Accessibility on 24 April, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that there are currently 10 municipalities in the country that have received the Public Transport Network Grant which stipulates strict conditions promoting the implementation of universal design and access to transport for all citizens.

However, not enough is being done in this regard, hence, the current administration has put in place various measures to ensure heightened accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Big changes coming

The Department of Transport has gazetted a national policy for parking discs that will enable drivers with disabilities to use a disc obtained in one part of the country everywhere in South Africa.

At present, most provinces have their own requirements for obtaining these permits and they are not all recognised equally across the country.

Furthermore, work is underway to roll out a standard for the universal accessibility of all road-based vehicles in South Africa, said the president.

The taxi industry has made strides in this area through the development of “accessibility mechanisms” that each cost R76,000 to produce and install.

Government is now looking at ways of making these mechanisms more affordable in an effort to motivate taxi owners to invest in them and increase adoption across the country.

“It is pleasing that the minibus taxi services have, where tasked, been able to demonstrate reasonable accommodation of passengers with disabilities,” said Ramaphosa.

Emerging technologies such as e-hailing and car-sharing platforms will also be involved in mobility discussions going forward.

“No discussion on universal access would be complete without considering the impact of emerging technologies and new business models on transportation, including e-hailing, car sharing, and the like,” said the President.

“These new systems are rapidly transforming the sector and must be factored into planning, in collaboration with the service provider companies.”

To support these initiatives, Ramaphosa called on municipalities to improve their road standards and visible signage so that pedestrian crossing infrastructure is more visible as well as easier and safer to use for differently-abled individuals, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The president has also urged entities operating in the transport sector to make information materials on routes and timetables more accessible.

In other transport areas, the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) is currently working with various airlines to improve accessibility across their operations.

“These efforts include the introduction of designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities, assisted passengers lounges, and designated private search facilities at security gates,” said the Ramaphosa.

Concurrently, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has developed a universal access policy with norms and standards for all train stations under its purview.

At present, numerous train platforms are only reachable via stairs and are not level with the trains that run through them, rendering it difficult for persons with disabilities to use these public transport facilities.

“[Prasa] has committed to speed up its work to ensure that trains are accessible and station platforms are level. The Gautrain has had level boarding on its trains since its inception,” said Ramaphosa.

In the maritime sector, the president said that industry partners and state-owned entities are currently looking at extending the universal accessibility of inland waterways, river crossings, boat sailing, and yachting clubs.

“It is important that in all future infrastructure developments, these kinds of design and usability considerations are factored in from the outset rather than being retrofitted later, which often becomes even more expensive,” said the President.

He also highlighted that it is essential for organisations within the transport industry to train staff on the needs and requirements of persons with disabilities so that they are able to adequately assist these individuals.

Government will continue to host engagements with persons with disabilities to hear their concerns and determine in which areas it can improve, the President concluded.

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