Disabled ‘demand’ more Dial-a-Ride buses

UNATHI OBOSE

Members of Disabled People of South Africa (DPSA) lambasted the City of Cape Town for failing to consult them before implementing new regulations regarding the Dial-a-Ride (DAR) bus services.

In protest, scores of disabled people made their way to the provincial legislature last Thursday.

“The City reduced the number of Dial-a-Ride buses from 34 to 20 without even consulting us. And we demand that the City add more of them. The problem now is that some of us are getting late at work because they (buses) don’t arrive on time,” said the provincial secretary of DPSA, Anthony George, who lives Tafelsig.

He said for the past three years more than 5 000 people have been on a waiting list for Dial-a-Ride services, with only 300 people currently being transported a day.

“Dial-a-Ride picks you up at your doorstep but their service is not sustainable because every year you must go for an assessment to the doctor to check if you qualify to use the bus or not. Another problem is that Dial-a-Ride doesn’t allow a helper to use the bus. It’s only for disabled people. And that is a challenge for other people because they can’t walk or speak,” said Mr George.

He emphasised that the disabled don’t need special attention, but a universal transport solution.

“We want transport to be a choice and not to be restricted to a certain kind of a transport. And what we see is Dial-a-Ride bus systems gradually fading away and the City focusing on the mainstream,” he said.

”This transport system started in 1993 and I was among the first people who benefited from it. It was started with four buses – two buses in Khayelitsha and two in Mitchell’s Plain. But still there is little progress and things became worse,” he said, adding that, “It’s affordable because the government also give us a subsidy.”

The City’s Mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron, said they have 21 buses for the transportation of Dial-a-Ride users and each bus can accommodate five wheelchairs and three seated passengers.

He described the people who protested at the provincial legislature as disgruntled members who refused to be assessed by an occupational therapist.

“For the past year and a half approximately 170 people who make use of the DAR service have refused to be assessed by an occupational therapist. They are part of a small group who protested against the service. And, unfortunately, we cannot allow this situation to continue.

“It is unfair to the more than 2 000 users who have been assessed and to other people with special needs who desperately need the DAR service and are on the waiting list to be accommodated,” said Mr Heron.

He added that approximately 45 people are still making use of the DAR services irrespective of the fact that they have been assessed by an occupational therapist and found to be able to make use of conventional public transport.

Mr Herron also said that they will allow a caregiver to accompany a DAR user if an occupational therapist has assessed the user and confirmed that the assistance of a caregiver is necessary.