Cape Town’s Quest for Accessible Transportation

Key concepts: Spatial Inequality, Social Inclusion, Disability Rights

As in many countries in the world, people with disabilities in South Africa face a number of social, attitudinal, structural and infrastructure barriers that inhibit their full participation in society. Accessible transportation can be one way to overcome some of these barriers and allow for access to education, employment, services, and social opportunities, particularly in sprawling and spatially segregated cities like Cape Town. Cape Town City Council developed a bus rapid transit system called MyCiTi and a Universal Access Policy (UAP) putting forth ambitious goals for accessibility, but transportation accessibility did not extend meaningfully beyond the new bus system and there continued to be gaps between policy and practice.

The case is one where a municipal government sought to take action and leadership on a human rights issue and chose to ‘aim high’ with an ambitious policy to meet international and domestic human rights commitments and redress inequality. It also, however, highlights potential gaps between these commitments and the resources available to municipalities. Is it appropriate to set goals that seem unreachable, or should policy objectives in this area be aspirational?

Learning objectives:

  • Examine city councils’ role in disability-related issues including access to transportation and public spaces
  • Consider the experiences of people with different types of disabilities who navigate transportation in urban settings
  • Understand South Africa’s obligations towards people with disabilities
  • Consider how cities like Cape Town might meet obligations that require significant resources
  • Consider what forms of consultation and monitoring are necessary for an effective, accessible transportation system