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A liveable city for the disabled

11 September 2012-Members of the disabled community got an opportunity to speak to senior officials of the City of Tshwane about their daily challenges and how the situation can be improved to make the city less intimidating for them.

disabled500Participants of Tuesday's meeting reading from the braille version of the address by Zaheer Ally of the City of Tshwane

The Mamelodi Chamber of Commerce hosted the meeting on 11 September 2012, as part of the City’s consultative process in relation to the Tshwane2055 growth and development strategy. The theme for the week is “liveable cities”.

Petra Burger, social development officer for the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa, said there was a need to educate the general public through awareness programmes to ensure that the inherent dignity of disabled people is respected and promoted.

“If we sensitise the people from the City of Tshwane it will be a better, liveable city for us all,” she said.

Burger further noted, as an example, the difficulties faced by disabled women in accessing contraceptives and ARVs at provincial clinics as it was widely assumed that they did not engage in any sexual activity.

“South Africa’s healthcare system is ill-equipped to meet the needs of the disabled community, especially with regard to mobility services,” she argued. “This particularly impacts on the women and children.”

The largest number of disabled people in the country stayed in Gauteng, added Burger, because of the work opportunities provided by the province.

Director of human resources strategic operations for Tshwane Zaheer Ally, spoke of efforts – at national government level – that are being made to bring about a system of equal opportunities for all vulnerable groups in South Africa.

“As a country, we are committed to ensuring that we create an inclusive society,” he said.

According to Ally, disabled people make up 5% of South Africa’s population of 50-million.

“Their experiences vary according to the nature of their disability, the diverse race, class, gender and geographical factors,” he explained.

Some of the areas that need to be focused on for improvement include health, housing, transport and education facilities.

Public transport in the city, said participant Deon Torris, had not been adapted to accommodate disabled users and thus creates challenges on a daily basis.

“While the Gautrain has structures for people with disabilities,” he said, “only a small number of disabled people can afford to use it.”

Koenraad Burger, vice chairperson of the National Association for Persons with Cerebral Palsy called for a forum to address the concerns of people with disabilities.

Another recommendation raised by a member of the audience was the replacement of the City’s current fleet of buses with ones that are friendlier towards people with special needs.

Added to that was a call for audible traffic signals to broadcast voice reminders that help visually-impaired people navigate the streets easier.

Liveable city and safer communities is the last thematic topic to be covered in Tshwane 2055 consultation discussion.

Other topics that were covered in the previous weeks included governance, health and poverty, sustainable environment and natural resources, economic growth, smart city and transport.

The intention of this exercise is to produce a long term strategy that has been jointly developed with the City's stakeholders. This document will be launched at a stakeholder summit in October.

You can join the Tshwane 2055 conversation by logging on to the following:
Tshwane 2055 microsite
Tshwane 2055 on Facebook
Tshwane 2055 on YouTube
Tshwane 2055 on Twitter
City of Tshwane official website