Accessible Transportation for PWDs – Wheelchairs Users
For a long time, most modes of transport around the world have been, and to an extent still are not accessible to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), especially those using wheelchairs. A larger percentage of urban and inter-urban transport systems remain inaccessible to this minority group. Moreover, mobility limitations are a serious obstruction to disability-inclusive developments because they aggravate the economic and social isolation of persons with disabilities.
There are some countries around the world where the issue of accessible buses for PWDs was sorted out as early as 2011. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, India, and Thailand are a few examples. Their buses have special seatbelts and ramps which allow wheelchair users to disembark and board without assistance.
Commuting to different places via public transport is usually a hectic activity for wheelchair users because the bus entrances are not only too high to climb up but also have no spaces for wheelchairs. The buses lack ramps which would make them easier to access. These challenges have forced wheelchair users into seeking private transportation because it is the only comfortable means of moving around.
To assist in making the transport industry accessible for Persons with Disabilities, the World Bank’s transport experts are helping client countries deliver transport infrastructure and services that can be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities- be it buses, trains or any other means of public transport.
Apart from buses and trains, bus stops and waiting bays are just as important. Having spaces made specifically for wheelchair users or any other person with a disability in need enhances good experiences for them. Several countries are working towards achieving all this, Kenya included though we are still lagging behind.
The Ministry of Transportation through partnership with UN-Habitat and the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) collaborated under the project “Access and Mobility” in May 2019 with the aim to promote the development of a transport system that is inclusive and accessible to all in Kenya, including PWDs. The project led to the discussion and application of universal accessibility in the formulation of transport policies, regulations, and practice. This was after realizing that public transport services have been discriminatory and less inclusive of the needs of the most vulnerable urban populations due to lack of a policy framework and incentives for inclusivity.
Rwanda Introduces Disable-Friendly Buses
Rwanda has led by example as they recently launched a fleet of public buses which are disable-friendly. The Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives (RFTC) purchased 11 buses designed in a way that enables people with disabilities to board and disembark without having any assistance. The introduction of these disable-friendly buses has therefore seen public transportation in Rwanda become more convenient for PWDs. For example, they have special seats that are reserved for PWDs and each bus can accommodate up to six persons with wheelchair-related disabilities.
Speaking during the official launch of the PWD-friendly buses, Jali Holdings’ Ltd Executive Chairman, Col (Rtd) Louis Dodo Twahirwa said, “We want persons with disability to start enjoying friendly and accessible public transport in the entire public transport system”.
Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure Hon. Clever Gatete explained that the public transport policy and strategy was designed to ensure public transport services for all citizens equally notwithstanding sex, age, faith, and ability to perform in society. This not only applies to PWDs but also the elderly.
Rwanda is just one example of many countries working towards achieving full accessibility of any public facility to all persons irrespective of their disabilities. Countries of the Third World should emulate this to ensure access to all modes of transport for the infirm, disabled and elderly people,” the Rwandan official said.
Having buses that are accessible to PWDs means wheelchair users will be a little more independent when boarding as there will no longer be need of carrying or lifting them up to alight or board the bus. Persons in crutches are also favored. They no longer have to feel left out as some touts or drivers find assisting a PWD board a bus a hectic activity, hence they are left at the bus stop. Especially for commuter buses. The introduction of accessible buses will consequently encourage the disabled to use public transport seeing as there will be no need to seek help from others.
By: Linzer Kibebe