Africa, Transportation, November 20 2019
ZIMBABWE: People living with disability in Harare are calling on the government to provide an all-inclusive public transport system that supports their special needs.
As a result of a high- cost of living, the government introduced a fleet of buses under the Zimbabwe Passenger Company (Zupco), at a subsidized fare aimed at lessening the burden on commuters who are no longer able to cope with the inflated prices of private commuters buses.
The buses, however seem to be failing to meet the demands of commuters as characterized by long queues at many bus termini dotted around the city.
People living with disabilities especially wheel-chair users have called on the government to at least make sure the transport system is all inclusive such that people living with disabilities can also access the services.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was reported in the local media in July this year, while commissioning the buses saying the government is committed to ease transport challenges in the country by availing reliable and affordable transport to the people in line with Vision 2030.
According to people living with disability, the buses are not user friendly. They do not provide for an effective support system that caters for people with special needs.
Silvestor Kambara, a vendor in the central business district says he has stopped using the Zupco buses because people who use wheel-chairs are not give first preference on the queues.
“Both the termini and the buses are not disability friendly.”
“It is like we do not exist. Everything about these buses is not user friendly for people like us. There is no ramp to support us when embarking into the bus, you have to find someone to carry you into the bus. It ends up seeming like a burden, because after enduring the long hours on the queue, people want to go home. No-one wants to wait for a person in a wheel-chair to take time getting on the bus,” Kambara said.
Disability Network, an organisation that advocates for the rights of people living with disability says although it was a well embraced move by government to introduce the Zupco buses, much needs to be done to support the needs of people living with disability in Zimbabwe.
“There are people who use wheel-chairs, the visually impaired and the deaf and dump. All of them face numerous challenges at different stages when accessing the services provided by government through the Zupco buses,” Disability Network, advocacy officer Senzeni Mutevedzi said.
“The buses are not user friendly for the disabled community, and the conductors and drivers are not trained to offer services that support people living with disability. While a visually impaired may find it difficult to state their bus-stop, a wheel-chair user also faces critical challenges in trying to safely embark or disembark the buses.”
“As a result of the high demand for the service, the front seats which in past were reserved for wheel-chair users are now packed with people. This has resulted in most people living with disability opting for public commuter omnibuses that charge exorbitant fares,” Mutevedzi said.
Member of Parliament for Kuwadzana constituency Miriam Mushayi said she has been championing the plight of the people living with disability in parliament and has been advocating for an all-inclusive disability friendly environment.
She said, “One of the key things that we have noticed is that in this country most public services are not disability friendly. The issue of transport is critical at the moment. We have noticed that most of the buses that are coming are not disability friendly.”
“We are yet to debate the issue of disability rights under the Disability Bill in parliament, but currently we have been lobbying and advocating for the rights of people living with disability. It is a continuous process, but I have approached the City of Harare and Zupco to talk about how best they are able to provide services that benefit the whole population,” said Mushayi.
Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said the city authorities and Zupco were working together to improve infrastructure at most bus termini in Harare.
“We are working with Zupco to improve the loading bays considering that for now Zupco is using the existing CBD termini,” Chideme said.
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