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Transport a major problem for disabled people, conference hears

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Vince Godber of Vision Bermuda (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Daniella Jade-Lowe, an accessibility consultant and aspiring journalist, pictured at the media desk in the Olympic Stadium at the London Paralympics (File photograph)

A lack of transport options for the disabled is the biggest problem for people with mobility problems, a conference heard yesterday.

Daniella Jade-Lowe, an accessibility consultant and conference panellist, said: “The average layperson does not understand the extra time and effort it takes for some people with disabilities to do regular tasks.

“Travelling may cost more and require extra specialist equipment.”

Keith Simmons, a Government accessibility official added: “Most taxis will charge more if you have a mobility issue.

“There are probably only four or five vehicles that would do the work.

“If they were to pick me up take me to the hospital I will ask them to wait because if they leave and I take two hours they might be at the other end of the island and I have to wait a long time for them to come back.

“It’s about $50 an hour which is expensive.”

Mr Simmons said he had sat on two committees that looked at solutions to transport difficulties for the disabled.

He added: “In my opinion they weren’t thought out properly.

“For example, we have a 20-seater minibus with one wheelchair spot – it is not financially viable to pay a driver of a bus of that size.

“They need to sit down with the real stakeholders who are in the field and work it out.”

The two were speaking at the “Common Ground - Amplifying Community Voices” conference, held on Zoom yesterday.

A snap poll of the viewing public during the conference backed the view that major improvements were needed to transport systems.

Panellists also included Chris Bulley, a building control officer for the Department of Planning and Vince Godber, a vision rehabilitation therapist for Vision Bermuda, an organisation for people with sight problems.

The panel agreed that the cost of transport for people with disabilities was high and that were limited vehicles to accommodate them.

But Mr Godber said it is difficult for organisations to take action themselves because of Bermuda’s driver licensing system.

He added: “If Bermuda wanted to provide drivers we could but the licencing system doesn’t allow volunteers to do it – you have to be a licensed driver.

“Tweaks like that would make a huge difference.”

Mr Godber said that the bus system needed to become more disabled-friendly.

He added: “The geography of the island and road layouts makes the public transportation system inaccessible.

“We have bus stops with no safe place to stand and getting to them is taking your life into your hands.

“It is enough to discourage people from travelling – it makes people reliant on friends and family. You shouldn’t be reliant on others to participate in your daily life.

“There are changes that can make it more accessible.”

Mr Simmons added that there was a shortage of disabled parking - made worse by people misusing the spots.

Mr Godber said that temporary parking permits should be introduced for people with short-term disabilities such as a broken leg.

He added that there should also be a permit system in place for people without disabilities to use reserved spots if they helped disabled people to get out and about.

Ms Jade-Lowe said that vehicles parked in front of dropped kerbs designed for wheelchairs and bikes parked on kerbs also posed a problem.

The conference, organised by WindReach, an outdoor activity centre for the disabled, was held to mark the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The conference also included a presentation by Jessica Lewis, a Paralympian and world champion athlete, on the portrayal of persons with disabilities in the media.

Tinee Furbert, the Minister for Social Development and Seniors, participated in a separate discussion about disability and employment.

The panellists said that businesses must do more to support the needs of people with disabilities.

Mr Godber highlighted the Quality Act in the UK that ruled that businesses should anticipate what people with disabilities needed and make reasonable adjustments.

He said: “This includes making the information you provide accessible to people. It can be in large print or audio.”

Mr Simmons said the Department of Ageing and Disability Services would start sensitivity training in partnership with the Bermuda Tourism Authority in January.

He added: “Marine and Ports will be the first attendees and we will reach out to individuals and businesses.”

Mr Bulley added: “We have to have a better ability to facilitate the creation of accessible spaces.

“Keith Simmons is a very important link between what people are submitting for building proposals and what is implemented.

“Planning statements and building codes need to support accessibility in our built environment.”

Businesses interested in taking part in the sensitivity training courses can contact the BTA or Mr Simmons on keithsimmons@ibl.bm

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Published December 04, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 03, 2020 at 6:02 pm)

Transport a major problem for disabled people, conference hears

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