SPESIALE VAKANSIE-AANBOD: Teken in teen net R49 vir jou eerste maand! Word 'n intekenaar
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Disabled call for access for all!
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Some of the residents who took part in the disability walk.Photos: Francois Lombard
A group from Huis Horison. In front from left: Marguerite de Villiers, Johann Rheeder, Stephani Booysen, Lea Calitz (volunteer), Anthea Holtz, Disa Bian and Mari Oberholzer. Behind is, Louis Cornelisson and Carmen van der Vyver (occupational therapist).

The Stellenbosch Disability Network (SDN) took to the streets of Stellenbosch on Saturday 23 November to celebrate the rights and lives of people with disabilities, but also to highlight the continued struggle against exclusion and inaccessibility. Over 250 people joined the 3rd annual Walk with Disability and took up the call for the mayor of Stellenbosch to be more responsive and to take deliberate action to increase accessibility for people with disabilities to all environments and opportunities.

This annual Walk with Disability falls within national Disability Rights Month, which concludes on 3 December with International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Stellenbosch is home to around 8 000 people with disabilities, but our communities, schools, towns and places of work remain largely inaccessible and out of reach for most people with disabilities.

The walk concluded with the handing over of a memorandum to councillor Manie Pietersen, who received the document in the mayor’s absence. There has been no formal response to any of the Stellenbosch Disability Network’s previous memorandums to the mayor in the past two years. The SDN has raised their concerns and made reasonable suggestions in each of these memorandums, but is still awaiting any response.

This year’s memorandum thanks Stellenbosch Municipality for their efforts towards engaging with the disability sector, but also reminds the municipality that no real progress has been made toward the implementation of its policies, mostly notably the Universal Access Policy (2016) and the current Comprehensive Integrated Transport Plan 2016 – 2020, with regards to disability inclusion.

Central to the exclusion of people with disabilities in and around Stellenbosch remains the lack of accessible public transport. With regards to transport, the memorandum makes six practical recommendations for the municipality to start systematically increasing their efforts towards accessible, affordable and safe public transport for all. These include the need to perform a comprehensive public transport survey and needs assessment as applied to people with disabilities, acquiring accessible vehicles for transporting people with disabilities within the municipal area as an interim measure until a more fully integrated and accessible public transport system can be established and urgently planning for the establishment of an integrated and universally accessible public transport system for Stellenbosch.

With events such as this walk, but also via public participation and other initiatives, the Stellenbosch Disability Network will ensure that the concerns of the disability sector are heard in the coming year. The time for policy that remains on paper is over. It is imperative that the call to action continues and that the municipality starts being more responsive and deliberately plan and implement their policies to ensure inclusion and opportunities for all.

Dr Cindy Wiggett-Barnard is CEO of ChangeAbility and the Chairperson of the SDN.

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