Orchids and Onions

The last two months have been busy. Rolling Inspiration was the media partner of the ACSA Disability show, which was a huge success and the QASA AGM was held at Mandeville. On top of that the Johannesburg BRT has just been launched and the Gautrain is running some coaches up-and-down the sections that have tracks. The Stadia for 2010 are also nearing completion.

Let me expand on each of the above.The South African Disability Alliance (SADA) negotiated a stake in the ACSA Disability show (well, in the conference section anyway) and this is just the start of something which is important for us in the disability sector. We are not tradeshow organisers, but we must be included in planning, environmental and economic opportunities. This was a small win for us and we will be negotiating for a stake and a long term relationship with the organisers. QASA has performed well in the last financial year, is healthy and raring to look at the strategic plan for the next three years. QASA must listen to the voices of its membership and we look forward to the signals for change. Our transformation is adding wonderful character to the organisation.

The city of Johannesburg have just launched their REA Vaya BRT and, despite advice from disability sector experts, and although we inspected the proto-type platform and station, it seems that they ignored the advice and just reproduced the faulty platform at every stop.So, at the moment, the end-to-end experience is not accessible, nor as safe as it should be, and will not mobilise people with disabilities independently within the Jo’burg/Soweto area. I use the word independently, as we must be able to use all public transport systems independently. Of course, somebody can lift you up and down, on an off, in and out, of any environment, but the significance of a universal system is that we should be able to use it on our own.By the time you read this article, I will have done a full inspection of the system and, hopefully, the authorities will acknowledge some of the problem areas and make good. If not, it’s time to visit the human rights commissioner again.

With regard to bus rapid transit, we should all be promoting the low floor kneeling bus system as this can be integrated into all other public transport facilities and can virtually stop on demand, something that the high floor buses cannot do. I am sorry to say that Port Elizabeth has chosen to go the Jo’burg route, with high fl oor buses. SADA have appointed a consultant to the Gautrain Authority which should guarantee a completely accessible offering. I am confident that we will get what we want in this environment. I have been advised that the 150 or so feeder buses to the Gautrain will also be accessible and so this could come close to a door-to-door transport system. It is such a pity,however, that this cannot be integrated into the Jo’burg BRT system.

Regarding the offering for people with disabilities and our stake in the 2010 World Cup, as I write this column negotiations to conclude a memorandum of understanding with the LOC are at a sensitive stage, and we are hoping that the LOC will agree to all the requests that have been made by the disability alliance in the MOU. I will give you an update in the next issue.It is that time of the year when we celebrate the successes in the disability sector, on various days and with a number of different organisations. I honestly believe that you can find plenty to congratulate individuals, or groups of people, on who have made a difference in the disability sector.

Congratulations to the Insurance SETA (INSETA), for coming up with an awards program. I am sure that, with increased awareness, these will prove popular.I wonder if we had a Julius Malema Award for the most ridiculous things said and done in the disability sector, who would win it? A prime candidate would be those who were involved in organising a second Disability Show, and the contracted organiser thereof, who have no understanding of the disability sector nor the voice of thereof.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a safe and enjoyable festive season. Please be careful on the roads and cautious in the sea. Be adventurous, but in a safe manner and make a difference in someone’s life.

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