Disabled call for better service attitude on public transport

Disabled call for better service attitude on public transport

Campaigners for people with disabilities called for better public transport facilities and better attitudes from bus drivers at a conference held in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday.

At the conference, many disabled people recalled their experiences of being denied services or discriminated against by drivers while simply trying to board a bus.

Tran Thi Hong Ngoc said her experience has made her feel reluctant to try taking a bus again. “I asked the bus driver to help me get on the bus but he refused, saying if I cannot get on myself then go and wait for the next one,” said Ngoc.

“And then the bus left. The same thing happened with the next few buses. I finally managed to get on one, but that was only because some students helped me.”  

Nguyen Thi Huyen, a disabled student at the Information Technology University in HCMC, said that a bus driver once refused to let her board his bus, and told her: “If you are a disabled, don’t go out alone.”

“It upset me so much,” Huyen said. “I often travel alone because my friends and families can't always be there to help me, can they?”

Vietnam is not an easy place to visit for people with reduced mobility or other disabilities. Moving around urban areas can be extremely difficult for disabled people since the streets and pavements are rarely designed with disabled access in mind.

The larger resorts and tourist attractions may provide facilities for disabled people, but in rural areas public transport is very limited and often inaccessible to wheelchair users.

In response to the issue, HCMC authorities and its Center for Public Transport Management have been working on a plan to introduce low-floor buses to encourage people with disabilities to take public transport.

“I am very proud of the city’s bus system,” Nguyen Van Cu, deputy head of the HCM City-based Disabilities Research and Capacity Development Center, said at the conference. Compared to other provinces and cities, buses in the city are better and easier for people with disabilities to use, Cu said.

Reports show that 263 of the city's fleet of 2,512 buses now have low or semi-low floors with automatic ramps to help people with disabilities, especially wheelchair users, to board buses, more than double the number in 2012.

It is also in the process of introducing 1,680 gas-fueled buses from 2014-2017, including 300 with low floors.

HCMC already grants free bus passes for disabled people and provides soft-skills training for bus drivers.

Le Hoang Minh, deputy head of the city's Department of Transportation, told Vietnam News that the city was one of the first places in the country to offer free bus passes for people with disabilities, well before it became mandatory under the 2012 Law on People with Disabilities.

Ramps have also been installed at 350 of the city's 497 bus stops, and bus stations have staff on hand to help people with disabilities, Minh said.

Conference participants suggested that L.E.D. signs and loudspeakers should also be installed at bus stops so that people with hearing and visual impairments know where they need to get on and off.

Other suggestions included smart phone apps, bus maps and directions to bus stops. People with disabilities should also be made aware that they are entitled to free bus passes, and the application process to register as disabled should be simplified.

Meanwhile, Minh said more than 1,000 cameras have been installed on buses to monitor drivers and staff.

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