People with disabilities demand better services from Metrorail

Dalton Nuwevelt is assisted to get off the train through a portable ramp. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

As part of International Day for People with Disabilities, a group of disabled train commuters took the train from Cape Town Station to Fish Hoek to illustrate the challenges that disabled commuters face on a daily basis when trying to board a train. They feel that Metrorail should be providing friendlier services to the disabled.

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

As part of International Day for People with Disabilities, a group of disabled train commuters took the train from Cape Town Station to Fish Hoek to illustrate the challenges that disabled commuters face on a daily basis when trying to board a train. They feel that Metrorail should be providing friendlier services to the disabled.

Adrian Davids (36) commutes everyday from Elsies River to Salt River where he works for an organisation that deals with disabled people. He is blind. His dog guides him wherever he wants to go. Everyday he has to endure the poor service provided by Metrorail.

“There is no way I can leave my dog. It is my guide. At times other commuters are not happy to be next to my dog. They push it around. Another day commuters pushed my dog off the train at Bellville station. I had no option but to follow my dog,” says Davids.

Train delays, cancellations or change of platforms are at times not announced leaving visually impaired commuters no wiser. “When metro rail do not make announcements, they actual show they are not caring for the disabled. At times I realise other commuters have changed platform or have used alternative transport but no one alerts me. This is really disturbing,” he says.

Dalton Nuwevelt feels Metrorail is undermining the dignity of people with disabilities by not providing proper facilities in trains, such as portable ramps to enable wheelchairs to board.

Nuwevelt uses a wheelchair moving from one point to another. “When I get to Langa train station security guards lift me and my chair up. At times they do not show much remorse. It sometimes make me feel nervous,” he says.

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On the International Day for People with Disabilities, Metrorail gave a free ride to 17 disabled people from Cape Town to Fish Hoek train station to see how they traveled on the train.

Inside the train, Nuwevelt grips a metal bar near the train door all the way from Cape Town to Fish Hoek.

“If Metrorail could be providing this standard it will be very good for the disabled,” says Alvin Fortuin.

Fortuin cannot walk properly. It takes him almost 10 mins to get out of the train. Trains do not wait for that long at stations.

According to Daphne Kayster, a Metrorail official, Prasa is in the process of establishing special-needs passenger desks where disabled commuters can access information and get some form of assistance.

Accompanying the disabled was Professor Gubela Mji from Stellenbosch. She welcomed the initiative: “It is good to hear that Metrorail is working on it but they should speed up the process,” she says.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 30 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.