BY GHAISA GHAIBOUR www.gulftoday.ae
SOME people with disabilities in Dubai consider the Dubai Metro their future means of transportation as it is being equipped with facilities designed to meet their needs.
This is according to a recent social study conducted by two researchers from the Department of Welfare and Rehabilitation of Persons with Disability at the Ministry of Social Affairs – , who specialises in the science of disability, and Rawhi Abdat, a psychologist.
The study aimed to identify the attitudes of persons with disabilities towards public transport in Dubai, as well as to identify the barriers they face while using it, according to the gender of the disabled person and the type of disability.
The study revealed that 37 per cent of the sample – consisting of 53 people with disabilities – had future plans of using public transport to commute to work, place of study or entertainment venues, while 20 per cent would use public transport only in case of necessity. The latter noted that “using the water bus and public buses create the fear of using public transport because of the fear of being subjected to harm or damage during transporting.”
According to Fawzi, the study included 30 male and 23 female respondents of various physical, hearing or visual disabilities. He added the study “showed that 43 per cent of them used public transport, while 56 per cent relied on private means – especially their own vehicle or the family car – while 28 per cent used private buses and cars of commercial and educational institutions or centres they belong to, while 15 per cent used taxis.”
He attributed the disabled people’s hesitation in depending on public transport to the impressions and prejudices that they have without an actual experience on the public vehicles. He noted that another reason was that many of them depend on the use of private cars, which provide comfortable and secure transport for the disabled.
Fawzi explained that 30 per cent of persons with physical disabilities faced problems in using public transport because of the difficulty of moving and getting in to the transport vehicle. Meanwhile, 26 per cent were not capable of getting a ticket because of the narrow gates, while 22 per cent faced difficulties in reaching the stations and the bus stop.
“Most of the disabled people fear exposure to a bad experience while using public transport,” he noted.
“Thirty-seven per cent expressed fear of being hurt and damage while some of them attributed the reasons for their [hesitation] to the lack of training or rehabilitation for using public transport, ignorance of the facilities that are available in these means, and their fear of weak communication between them and the driver or workers,” he noted.
Moreover, 41 per cent of disabled people refuse to even think about using or depending on public transport in the future, although all the amendments and facilities needed by the disabled have been made.
According to Fawzi, “Most of those abstaining from using public transport have private cars and family cars ensure comfort and independence in transporting.”
He pointed out that 34 per cent of disabled people said they will not give up a private car, while 24 per cent expressed their willingness to use the Dubai Metro. Another 7 per cent noted that they would use taxis and 6 per cent intended to use public buses, he added.
Based on the results, the study reached a number of recommendations put in a special guidebook for people with special needs on how to use public transport.
Fawzi stressed that “the recommendations summarised a number of facilities that would encourage disabled people to use mass transport, including providing more facilities on public transport buses and water bus to suit the disabled.”
The study recommendations included establishing a committee comprised of representatives of the Roads and Transport Authority and the Ministry of Social Affairs as well as persons with disabilities themselves.
The committee’s task would be to examine the difficulties faced by the disabled persons during their use of public transport, in order to overcome them.
It could help increase awareness among persons with disabilities and their institutions about public transport accessibility. Moreover, it could help provide more facilities that would make public transport more accessible to disabled people — especially to those with physical disabilities, who would need ease in boarding and disembarking, as well as free movement.