If you’ve been following the blog’s Facebook page and/or the Twitter accounts, you most likely have seen my question about how we, both individually and as a society, react to illegal parking in disabled bays. Looking back and the post-history for the blog, I’ve discussed the mentality issues surround the ‘illegal parking issue’ but I don’t think I’ve adequately investigated different society’s reactions to the problem. I’m genuinely interested in how different people deal with a vehicle parked in a disabled bay illegally. At the same time, I’d like to understand what methods your society takes to combat the issue both practically and ideologically.
Leaving aside what we’ve discussed, I think it’s time I tell you how South Africa reacts to the issue as I’ve experienced it. While there are some individuals and organisations (like QASA or UCT’s Traffic Department) who do amazing work to combat the issue, something I’ve seen often at the places I visit are ridiculously low fines and/or the institutions not taking the issue seriously. Take a look at what I see as the three biggest ‘reaction problems’ I’ve experienced in South Africa:
Really low fines
OK, maybe it’s just the places I go to often but I’ve come across places who either issue fines that I think are ridiculously low by comparison to other countries. I can’t speak about anywhere else in South Africa since I’ve only lived in Cape Town but I still think it is worth pointing this out.
I don’t go everywhere in Cape Town so this might not be a complete picture of how it truly is but this is supposed to be my experiences so… yeah. A lot of the places I’ve come across, have a ‘clamp and release’ policy and the release fee is roughly between R150-R500 (the equivalent of $7-$35 or £5-£27 at the current exchange rate). I’ve heard of café bills that are larger. Surely, if the goal is preventing someone from doing this again, the fines should hurt significantly? Or am I unreasonable?
Sorry for not posting in a while but it’s been a hectic couple of weeks. VARSITY’s Sports Editor asked me to write an article on Archery and Disability for the next issue. Since it might interest you, below is a copy of the article I sent to the editor today. Hope you enjoy.
The fact of being in a wheelchair, often, makes a lot of popular, ‘traditional’ largely inaccessible to wheelchair-users without significant changes to the infrastructure of the sport. While a wheelchair limits the sports you can get involved in, archery is one of those sports where the wheelchair is largely of no consequence to your performance. The very nature of the sport renders one’s wheelchair – often a focal point for divisiveness – virtually irrelevant.
I was asked by UCT’s student-run newspaper to write an opinion piece on campus accessibility. This is cool. I think I should expand its reach than just the university for various reasons so below is a copy of the article I sent the editor word-for-word.
I’m a Second-Year Humanities Student. I happen, also, to be in a wheelchair. In the ideal world, this wouldn’t make any difference for my education. UCT’s campus, however, is not easy on the accessibility front. That said, there are various groups of staff and students who fight to make the campus that little bit more manageable for the disabled students but they face considerable challenges on various levels. The effort that groups like UCT’s Traffic Department and the Disability Service put in, although considerable, does not negate the fact that UCT is still very inaccessible for disabled students.
If I had to put the accessibility issues I’ve experienced into a single word, it would have to be ‘lifts.’ I’ve lost count how many times the lifts I need are broken. I’ve also been stuck in two different lifts on Upper Campus. I think it goes without saying that a broken lift can scupper my entire plans for the day. Recently, there was one day where all but one of the Humanities lifts on the South Side broke and the one that remained was, perhaps, the one I could have afforded to lose. Yes, the Disability Service report broken lifts promptly and inform the affected students timeously but that does not change the fact that previously-accessible, planned-for, short routes have been rendered all but useless.
I started working with the Altitude Group since November last year. Since then, I’ve been becoming more and more aware of the policies that South Africa has (and doesn’t have) in terms of disability. Something that just dawned on me relatively recently was that, as yet, South Africa has no ‘Disability Watchdog.’ That said, I’m no expert so I’d appreciate you correcting me if I’m wrong although, sadly, I don’t think I am.
Based on what I read, in short: there is no South African equivalent of the American’s with Disabilities Act who actively enforces anti-ableism campaigns. The closest SA does have, though is the Human Rights Commission – who are too overworked to have time to deal with disability accessibility issues.
When a lift broke down (as well as the backup) in a building recently, I remember an American standing behind me saying “Well, that’s illegal” The sad part is, even if it was illegal we don’t have the resources to enforce the new policy. The sad reality is that, on the whole, South Africa doesn’t have any kind of ‘Disability Watchdog’ like those in America or in the United Kingdom.
I’ve had quite an interesting experience happen to me today that I want to share with you.
As you’ll know if you’ve been ‘Keeping Up with the Diaries’, UCT and I go through an ‘on again, off again’ relationship on the Disability Front. Nothing bad happened to me today but today’s interaction reminded me that accessibility, sadly, is not something I can take for granted.
It’s the third week of the Second Semester and all tutorials are due to start this week and it’s time to start mobilizing in general: assignment deadlines are around the corner, lectures are in full-swing, and the beginning-of-semester administration is dead and gone. When I checked my timetable in Week 1 to double-check whether all my venues were indeed accessible, I found myself having to e-mail a couple of lecturers to have a couple of tutorials due to inaccessible venues. Simple right? Wrong.
Of the four courses I’m doing this Semester, two of them have resulted in tutorial problems that I can’t seem to get resolved just yet for some reason. The first course, I signed up for online like everyone else because it suited my schedule and it was in a building that I know to be accessible. The second was in a room I knew to be a problem so I requested it to be moved, as I’d done for the three semesters before. I thought that’d be the end of it for my ‘venue problems’.
Tutorial 1 for Course The First comes around on Thursday last week and I go to the building and start hunting for a room which, according to the signage and general layout of the building should be easy enough to find, after spending literally half-an-hour marching up and down the building, exploring all four floors I discovered that the specific room I was meant to be in is the one inaccessible room in a building that is otherwise largely accessible. I’m in communication with the department now to try and fix the problem and, hopefully, the fact that I missed the tutorial (of which there are only three this semester for this course). As Adrian Mole would put it: “just my luck.”
Maybe it’s just me but I like to think that people are not intentionally vindictive beings who set out to make other people’s lives more difficult but, the reality is, that it happens far more than we’d like to admit. From a wheelchair-user’s perspective, one of the ways I see this happening a lot is in disregard for Disabled Parking Bays.
I don’t know how many times I’ve come across Disabled Bays being used illegally. To be honest, it is difficult to understand exactly why this is so common giving how aware a lot of societies are on other issues. Is it that people don’t understand why they exist? Don’t they care? Yes, something like “he’s in my spot” is trivial but I still think it is worth condemning the action as it speaks to the larger issue that is Ableism.
While it is a requirement in several countries that parking areas have allocated Disabled Parking, I don’t think the reasoning behind their existence is adequately explained if at all. In my opinion, there are 2 main reasons for their existence: Safety and Access.
Reasons for a Disabled Bay’s Existence
I’m sure it goes without saying that, in most cases, wheelchair-users are lower than the average, ambulatory person by the very fact that they are seated. The height difference, in a parking scenario, can lead to potential dangers. To put it frankly, it is harder for drivers to see us.
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).