To those South African friends: I’m not due to leave until the end of Undergrad so we’ve still got time together. That said, there are several reasons why I’m going to leave. This post focuses purely on one small aspect of why England is better on the Disability Front (which in and of itself is only one factor in the Emigration Decision).
My mother just got back from a trip through England for the last month earlier today. Yes, she spent some of the time with family and looking around but the primary motivation for the trip is house-hunting.
As a family, we’ve decided that we have to move to England after I’ve finished my Undergraduate for various reasons. While there, my mother decided to have a look around areas more generally as well as at specific properties. Hearing some of the stories of her trip in the hours since she’s been back, I’m amazed at the accessibility and general awareness of disability differences between England and South Africa.
The brief period of time that I spent in London a couple of years ago really opened my eyes to how accessible Public Transport could be for disabled people. Not once was there a bus, train, or taxi that I couldn’t use. Although I did not spend my time exclusively in London, London was the place where I used Public Transport the most.
Cape Town, in contrast with London, is largely unaware of its disabled population on the Public Transport Front. While one could argue South Africa’s awareness is somewhat justified given its past, it was refreshing to be in a place where accessing the city was possible (not to mention easy and affordable).
With the exception of the ‘MyCiti’ Bus Service, no public transport system in Cape Town is accessible for people in wheelchairs. Yes, Fish Hoek Train Station has accessible platforms but what use are they if no other station has them?
During my mother’s roughly six-week trip around England to about 12 different places, we were all surprised to discover that the ‘Londonesque’ accessibility and awareness of disability was understood and implemented in a lot of the less-popular, smaller areas.
Accessible pavements, such a simple thing and so rare in Cape Town. Why, o why, this hasn’t been rectified already is beyond me given the relative ease with which it could be done but, alas, a majority of Cape Town pavements only have ramps courtesy of someone’s driveway if they are lucky enough to have one at all. It was beyond refreshing to find that I was able to move around London with remarkable ease on and off pavements and around the city.
Cape Town’s lack of something as simple as a small, easy-to-install ramp, means that I am often left in a situation where it is physically-impossible to get from one side of the road to the other or to remain safely out of reach of cars on busy roads. This simple omission by the City means that something as simple as going the three or four streets from my house to get the odd pint or two of milk becomes life-threatening.
I’ve grown up in the relative quiet of Cape Town Suburbia with a few, decent coffee shops and small shops within walking distance from my house. Thanks to the pavement situation, though, I am forced to walk the majority of that way on the roads themselves and have, on more than one occasion, encountered a rather unsavoury driver who could have done some damage if they had been slightly off the mark. I didn’t complain. Why should I? It was normal. Normal, that is, until I went to London and experienced a place where it is unthinkable to have to risk one’s neck like that just to do the shopping.
While the differences between Cape Town and London are understandable given the respective historical contexts in which they developed, it still doesn’t make it any less true that London (and apparently several other locations in England according to my mother) is far better-equipped for disabled people. Leaving, then, is a no-brainer.
Quick shout-out to Hunter & Sandi Kelch over at Come Roll With Me for giving me the idea but I’ve decided to recruit my mother to give her perspective on a few things every now and again. I’m not entirely sure how the logistics of this plan are going to work out just yet but we’ll see where it goes.
In other news…
Diary of a Disabled Person and I are working on the collaboration we promised. Watch this space!