“We are not helped nor respected, both by the public members and public buses attendants. I always get very late to my work place because I can’t go through the mass struggles to get into city bus” said Saidi Gange (38), a disabled school teacher at Nzasa primary school at Mbagala Rangitatu bus station in Dar es salaam.
The daily travel routine of people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam and nearby areas is becoming increasingly difficult due to the lack of adequate infrastructure and city transport system to support disabled needs.
People with disabilities in the city have complained of unbearable situations that they face on a daily basis when using public transport. Namely, mobs of passengers struggling to get into the buses, city congestions, and unacceptable treatment from the bus attendants as well as non-priority given by the public members on city buses.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics Census Report of 2012, the city of Dar es Salaam has approximately 114, 631 people living with disabilities which is 4.5 percent of all people with disabilities in the country. Many of them depend on inadequate public transportation for their daily travel.
Elizabeth Ngowe (29), a disabled city resident, claims that discrimination against people with disabilities from buses conductors is common and that most of the time they are not assisted in any way to use the transport.
“Most of public buses can not accommodate us, you can imagine I am using a wheel chair, it’s not easy to get in or out of the bus without assistance but nobody is there to help, and nobody would bother to assist” she said.
One of the city bus drivers, Hamidu Namamba, says it has been hard to help people with disabilities on buses in part due to transportation difficulties in the city.
“People in demand of transport are many in Dar es salaam, particularly on morning and evening hours, sometime even without the disabled residents one can not have access to a bus unless they are struggling to get in or spend extra money as fare, something which is difficult for this special group” he said.
This situation denies the right to accessibility to people with disabilities and it is against United Nations Resolution No. 27 (a) (iii) of 20 December 1948, which states that all human beings are born free with equal rights and dignity. In line with the resolution, human beings have the right to use society and its resources for their development and protection.
Novatus Rukwago, the director of Tanzania union for people with disabilities organizations (SHIVYAWATA), said disabled rights are violated not only in transport but in other many sectors as well. His organization has been working tirelessly to improve the situation in a country with the cooperation with the social welfare department under the ministry of health and social welfare.
“We were once denied our right to use public transport by the Dala Dala (city buses) attendants who complained that they were not paid bus fares when they allow disabled to travel with their buses, but with the government and other stakeholders we settled the matter” he said.
Maria Mselemu from the public relations department of Surface and Marine transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) said in spite of the problematic situation they have been facing, the authority has been implementing different policies and enforcing the law to ensure safety and proper treatment to people with disabilities on public transport all over the country.
“Currently, the government is implementing a big road project called Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit that includes the construction of adequate infrastructure to accommodate people with disabilities; Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (DART) will further increase accessibility to transport from the current 43 per cent to 70 per cent” she said.
She also added that the authority is working to rehabilitate and construct roads signs that will simplify the usage of roads to people with disabilities and insists that they will take strong measures against any person alleged to have mistreated those of the disabled community in public transport or choose to endanger their safety when using the city’s infrastructure.
Tanzania has established a constitutional, legal and policy framework that protects the rights of its citizens. The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania firmly states that all human beings are equal and are entitled to equal rights irrespective of color tribe, gender and religion. The “Persons with Disabilities Act”, Act N0. 9 of 2010 Section 50 (b) indicates that it is an offence for a person with a disability to be denied access to any building that provides public services, roads, transport and other indoor and outdoor facilities.
Rashid has worked extensively as a volunteer with various non-governmental organizations which advocate on issues of human rights, climate change and peace issues. In his free time, he likes to talk politics and discuss different regional and national issues of development with peers and policy makers.