Public Service Vehicle operators are leaving disabled people by the roadside, impatient with the time people with physical challenges take to get on the buses, leading disability rights advocate Kerryann Ifill has complained.
And Ifill, president of the disabled community’s umbrella organisation, the Barbados Council for the Disabled is pleading with the Ministry of Transport and the Transport Authority to urge PSV operators to curb their insensitivity which often leaves these commuters stranded for hours.
“[PSV operators] are leaving them at the bus stops and telling them take another transport because they can’t be bothered to wait a few seconds that it may take for persons to get onboard their vehicles.
“This can be very distressing in a situation where you have to wait another two hours before a vehicle can come along, she said.”
Sitting next to Minister in the Ministry of Transport Minister Peter Phillips, at the launch of authorised disabled parking IDs for at the BCD’s headquarters, former Senate President Ifill said: “We’re hopeful that the Ministry of Transport and the Transport Authority can encourage members of the public service community to be a little bit more understanding about persons with disabilities because we too are commuters and we too have the right to be part of the process.”
Phillips did not respond directly to Ifill’s remarks, but he had earlier given the assurance that his ministry and the Transport Board have disabled people at heart in all transport initiatives.
“Travelling by public transportation can be a challenge at times to the general public, more so to the disabled community” Phillips said, as he addressed the BCD members directly. “You, like all of us, have family and personal commitments.
“Many of you are fully employed and
[/or] attend learning institutions at school or university.
“You too attend social events and live a full life.
“You also have the right to participate in the community as much as you are able to.
“Most persons with disabilities are not holders of valid driver’s licences and therefore rely mainly on public transport.”
For this reason, the minister declared, the public transport system takes into consideration the challenges of all.
He added: “The ministry will endeavour to provide accessibility wherever possible for this community so that its constituents can conduct their affairs, whether it is shopping in Bridgetown or taking a scenic bus ride.”
He pointed out that the Transport Board already has two buses specially designed for the travelling members of the disabled community and said that wide-bodied buses to accommodate wheelchair users will be included in the fleet of electric vehicles the publicly-owned bus company plans to buy shortly.
Disability advocates also raised concerns about limited disability parking spaces at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
This is made worse for the disabled, they said, when QEH security guards insist that any BCD-issued disabled parking tag must be made out to the vehicle seeking to use the space instead of the disabled passenger.
Ifill said: “That has been an ongoing situation with the parking at the hospital [for] almost as long as we’ve been fighting the fight for parking spaces (2002) we’ve had this challenge.
“I do not know why it is misconstrued that the driver must be the person with the disability in order to park there.
“But the Council for the Disabled will continue to lobby and to work with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to rectify that situation.”