Paper presented at the 21st Annual South African Transport Conference 15 - 18 July 2002 "Towards building capacity and accelerating delivery", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.
National policy and legislation articulates the responsibility of both government and civil society to promote the full integration of people with disabilities into society (INDS, 1997). This includes the instruction to government to “take steps to reasonably accommodate the needs of [persons with disabilities]” (Section 9, Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000). As an enabler, transport plays a major role in achieving these goals. A number of initiatives have been launched at local, provincial, and national government level to improve the accessibility of the transport system to people with disabilities. These have ranged from installing kerb cuts and ramps at some CBD intersections and new transport
facilities, to launching higher cost demonstration projects involving full-size buses
retrofitted with wheelchair lifts (e.g. Durban), Dial-a-Ride services operated by smaller
accessible vehicles (e.g. Cape Town and Johannesburg), and state-of-the-art low-floor
buses (e.g. Cape Town, see Hugo and Stanbury, 2001). These efforts have contributed to the growing local experience with accessible transport (Venter and Mokonyama, 2001). Yet their overall impact has been limited. Implementation has been small-scale and piecemeal, without a long-term plan for the effective utilization of resources. The Integrated Transport Planning (ITP) process mandated by the National Land
Transport Transition Act (NLTTA, 2000) and its regulations presents opportunities for local
authorities to address accessibility issues within a holistic framework for the development
of transport from the strategic planning phase through to the identification and prioritisation
of projects. The process also makes provision for extensive public participation throughout the planning process. Yet very little experience exists on integrating special needs issues into the planning process. The danger is that local authorities, faced with an enormous accessibility problem, scarce funds, and pockets of very vocal demand, will continue to follow a fragmented approach to accessibility. The question is, how does a local authority use its resources wisely to achieve real benefits for people with disabilities? Where does it start? This paper suggests a practical approach towards planning accessibility improvements to maximise their impact. It argues for a spatially focused approach that pays deliberate attention to the whole travel chain, which provides ample opportunity for input by people with disabilities, and which plans for the incremental implementation of improvements as technical and funding constraints are solved. The concept of “strategic accessible corridors” is proposed as a working concept, and illustrated using a real-world example. The concept is informed by lessons drawn from South Africa and other developing countries, particularly in Latin America.
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