Amanda Gibberd, Director of Universal Design in Public Transport at the National Department of Transport lauded TUT for a job well done, saying: “TUT has done a fantastic job as this is the first time that there has been a conference that deals with access to transport for disabled persons and think that it is an excellent beginning.”
She added that she would like to support the University to continue hosting the conference annually because access to transport is a national area of focus and emphasised that people need to travel freely, whether they have a disability or not.
The Summit brought together abled people and persons with various disabilities to discuss the theme: The local and international evolution of transport options to accommodate a diverse society. Over the two days, the programme featured presentations from various speakers, panel discussions, question and answer sessions, exhibitions of various utilities and new technologies for disabled persons and a networking gala dinner for delegates.
The tone of the summit was set by Sebenzile Matsebula, Council Member of the Transport Sector Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Charter Council, who delivered the keynote address. Sebenzile acknowledged that the summit would not be an ordinary gathering where people share their experiences, but one that is about finding ways to tackle the daily challenges faced by disabled persons when coming to accessibility to transport.
International delegates, Brenda Puech, Access Consultant from the United Kingdom and Eion O`Herlihy, Managing Director of O`Herlihy Access Consultancy from Ireland, gave an international perspective of accessible and sustainable transport options which have been implemented at their countries.
During their presentations, Puech mentioned that the factors which make a transport network inclusive are systems that give individuals choices, independence, dignity, flexibility and equal treatment. “The starting point is giving disabled persons independence and dignity. South Africa has made positive progress but there`s a need to shift the focus from constantly developing urban areas to developing rural areas because there`s an unequal focus on infrastructure and it needs to be spread out to reach all societies,” said Brenda. Her views were based on her visits to the townships and rural areas during the times that she has travelled to South Africa.
O`Herlihy presentation titled: The Integration of accessible road transport in Ireland, shared some of the methods which were implemented in Ireland to reach a transport system which is accessible to a diverse society. According to O`Herlihy, universal design has been written in the legislations` of Ireland since 2005, and if South Africa would follow a similar approach to improve access to transport, it would take almost a similar amount of time.
Other interesting presentations included: Drivers licences for persons with disabilities by Caroline Rule from Driving Ambitions, who showcased videos of disabled persons during the process of obtaining their drivers licences, Enabled environments and assistive technologies for persons with disabilities by Prof Karim Djouani, SARChI Chair (TUT FSATI), and the Local transport footprint from the disability sector in the provinces by Danie Botha-Marais, Programme Manager: NCPPDSA.
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