In The Workplace
For a long time I have been advocating that people with disabilities are employed by giving them real jobs and the opportunity to have a career and a job. Disabled persons with the relevant skills, experience and qualifications that are placed in relevant positions can have a very successful job. Unfortunately, the employment of disabled persons is being hijacked by the lack of accessible public transport. How will we ever achieve our equal participation if this matter is not seriously addressed and rectified?
It is coming more and more to my attention that many disabled people cannot accept job offers because they do not have transport to work. This is especially the case where the disabled person is entering the job market for the first time. One needs to have a job to earn money so that you can be in a financially viable position to purchase a vehicle and become independent.
But how can you get a job if you do not have the option to make use of accessible transport to get to your work?
Another issue that is also affecting disabled employees is when their condition gets worse and they are not able to drive themselves to work anymore. Or a non-disabled employee suffers from a condition, or is involved in an accident and become disabled and is not able to drive.
Lately a few employees had to give up their jobs because of not having the option to use accessible public transport. And others are so stressed out about getting to work that they are considering giving up their job. This is a good example of the environment being a disabling factor and not the disabled person's disability per se.
I am aware of a few initiatives where accessible bus services have been implemented in various cities. However, it makes me sad when I hear of all the problems and barriers that disabled persons experience when trying to access these bus services. So how effective are these bus services, or has it merely been implemented to fulfill a tick box exercise of meeting compliance policies?
My friend who worked for a company in Cape Town applied online to use a transport service for persons with physical disabilities to take her to work and back home again. After applying she received a reference number and then suddenly silence - no feedback.
We followed up the transport service and eventually person number four were the correct person to speak to. The manager explained that she would call us back, but until today no feedback - we just gave up after making numerous calls and getting no responses. We were informed that there is a long waiting list and that the demand is more than what they can assist with.
But my question is: why request people to apply on-line for the service if you are unable to render the service to the person with a physical disability? Why are disabled people given the run around, false promises and no feedback? We are citizens of this country and many of us are taxpayers and basic customer service also applies to us. My friend has in the meantime given up her work as the stress of getting to work and back home has aggravated her condition.
The Gautrain is a good example of implementing a universal accessible design approach that is inclusive of persons with disabilities.
I hope that the disability sector will continue to advocate for inclusive and accessible transport, and ensure that actions by decision makers are implemented. When we require accessible transport, we should have the option of getting onto a bus or a train or taxi. This will result in more persons with disabilities to be employed, increase the quality of their and their family's lives and contribute towards meeting the employment equity goals and contribute socio-economically.