Disability is a significant issue facing our society. For starters, some people with disabilities have to get around using public modes of transport. In less economically developed countries, especially in Africa, people with disabilities often experience a range of transportation barriers. For example, inaccessible portions of the urban transport systems and lack of assistive measures on public roads.
Lack of proper transportation for affected persons leads to limited or no access to various services or work opportunities.
Public transport in Africa is the most common means of getting around. Being a highly-populated continent, most public transport methods may not fully accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.
How can we improve public transport systems for persons with disabilities?
Simple adjustments can be made to the African transport systems to accommodate different special needs. When people with disabilities use public transport, there should be strategies to ensure safety and comfortable accommodation.
Here are some ways that we can make public transport experience more enjoyable for people with disabilities:
Using real-time data
The transport sectors can help control public planning and transport operations, which directly affects people with disabilities. For example, offering distinct boarding terminuses for them that are free from congestion.
Roads leading to terminuses should be made free of potholes and litter to avoid accidents for people who use wheelchairs and other moving assistive devices. The portions of urban and inter-urban transport that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities can be reconstructed to accommodate easy passage.
Customizing public service vehicles
Another excellent way is to equip public service vehicles with assistive devices that make it easier for persons using wheelchairs to board the car. Such accommodations on the buses include accessible features such as a lift or ramp placed on the bus to help people with wheelchairs and other mobility devices to board without getting off or having people assist.
It is placed as an extension under the entrance of the bus. A reader-board on the public service vehicle can be placed in clear writing to assist those who are deaf or have hearing impairments to access any spoken announcements or warnings. Audio announcements for upcoming terminuses or bus stops should be put in place to assist those affected by vision impairment and blindness.
Sensitize public service operators
Public service vehicle Operators like drivers and conductors in more populated urban areas should be sensitized to the proper care of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, this could be a real issue that may take a while to be fully overseen due to the highly populated urban areas in African countries.
Due to the congestion in most public service vehicle terminuses, people with disabilities tend to be neglected. It may be harder for an individual with a mobility impairment to board a bus because the operators are not informed or do not care for the need to assist. To fully reach out to them, platforms such as non-governmental organizations and the Red Cross, with the help of the vast public transport sectors, can devise means of sensitization on disability challenges.
Use of limitation signs to assist people with mobility impairments
Appropriate signs can help people use assistive mobility devices to make correct movements when accessing public transport vehicles. People with other impairments may also benefit from this due to factors that include a lack of confidence to ask for directions from random strangers. For example, clear public signs to indicate pedestrian bollards, show when particular routes are not usable.
Traffic lighting and signaling should be accommodative of all people with disabilities. Most vehicle boarding stations tend to be congested, so placing signs to direct people with disabilities toward less crowded access points should be done to prevent accidents. In the vehicles, limitation signs should be installed to indicate when doors open and close and adjust seats to the desired needs.
Modes of payment in public transport can be alternative for people with disabilities. People with vision impairments may not be able to use cash on a public service vehicle and may require specific means to pay the required fare. The public transport sector and concerned stakeholders can devise special ways, for example, Braille equipment for electronic cash transfer for blind people. Apart from that, the government, teaming up with relevant organizations, should devise options that can offer free and accessible transport services. For example, funds should be set aside to develop a system where all public transport users affected by disabilities do not pay for the service and get all the proper accommodations.
Paratransit services or community transport services may be one of the best and easiest ways to improve the public transport system in Africa. Non-governmental organizations, private sector companies, and well-wishers should aim to set funds towards a simple system of helping those who cannot access public transport get to their destinations. For example, this can be done by assigning teams that help people with various disabilities get from home to the needed destination or allow them to board a vehicle or train. Using this method may be beneficial to the low-income countries of Africa economically. Some proposals from profitable organizations may create employment opportunities for the assigned teams of helpers. The transportation service supplements larger public transit systems by providing individualized transport without limited or fixed schedules.
Give priority to people with disabilities in offering public transport services. For example, when boarding, give chances for those with mobility problems to access comfortable seating. Some people with mental disabilities may require assistance to access transport services. Hence, the best way to assist them is to give raw and clear instructions in a kind manner. Operators should engage customers with vision impairments to make sure that they safely reach their destination in cases where there is a lack of automatic audio assistance. When the vehicle gets to a stop, the operators should consider helping those who have mobility problems to get off safely and on a pedestrian bollard.
Africa is a developing continent; therefore, she may not fully reinforce all the above methods at once. However, improvements can be achieved gradually by applying simple adjustments to the public transport sector and a general change of attitude towards people with disabilities.