Accessible Transportation Around the World – Updates from Access Exchange International

Global, Transportation, May 28 2020

South Africa tests access features in rough terrain Prototype bus would enhance mobility for school children, others with special needs

Even prior to the current pandemic, more than half a million children with disabilities were estimated to be out of school in South Africa. Lack of transport to school is a big part of the problem. Walking or cycling is not realistic in much of South Africa, where old apartheid policies created long distances between townships and cities.

Designing more accessible vehicles must be part of any effort to address this situation and the challenge was taken on board by committed staff at South Africa’s Dept. of Transport in coordination with equally committed local mechanics who understood the practical issues. While the inaccessible minibus taxis used by around two thirds of South Africans work well on rough roads and in townships with narrow roads, they are unsuited for wheelchair users and others with disabilities. The need was even greater for a vehicle suitable for school transport

– An automatic ramp saves time, for use when there is no curb aligned with the floor of the vehicle. Drivers can remain in vehicles and thus decrease boarding time.

and for use in remote villages. The resulting prototype vehicle, pictured at left, meets a wide range of needs.

The layout includes flip-up seats to eliminate lost seats when not used by passengers in wheelchairs, yet able to take up to four persons in wheelchairs. This is especially a solution for school children with disabilities, but with wider application especially in isolated or rural communities. And, given the very high number of road accidents in Africa, the use of a side-mounted rather than a rear-mounted ramp improves safety whether the vehicle is used in regular service or specialized on-demand service.

South African Dept. of Transport staff requested Access Exchange International to present their work on this prototype at our annual Roundtable in Washington DC this past January. We wish the best to our South African colleagues as they provide further testing and move this vehicle toward production while working on both operational and economic models for an accessible transport system of this nature. In spite of its many problems, South Africa is in the lead in sub-Saharan Africa.

AEI’s Bridging the Gap guide published in Chinese by Eden Social Welfare Foundation, a leading provider of school transport for children with disabilities

The Eden Social Welfare Foundation, headquartered in T aiwan, has announced the publication in Chinese of AEI’s guide, “Bridging the Gap: Your role in transporting children with disabilities to school in developing countries.” (photo at left) The guide is available at and will be disseminated in Chinese- speaking regions. Editorial review was carried out by a professor at the Dept. of Social Work of Soochew University in Taipei to assure a high quality Chinese version. Eden is a leading school transport operator in Asia (photo right).

On April 30 the Eden Social Welfare Foundation in Taipei announced the publication of AEI’s guide to promote school transport for children with special needs around the world. The Foundation has a long history of meeting social needs in the region and sponsored the “TRANSED” conference on accessible transportation and mobility, co-sponsored by the USA’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) in 2018. Personnel from the Foundation are active in the work of TRB’s Committee on Accessible Transportation and Mobility as well as AEI’s annual Roundtable held each January in Washington DC.

The guide is now available in the four most-spoken languages in the world: Chinese, English, Hindi, and Spanish, as well as in a Japanese version. The new 140-page Chinese version represents another step forward in AEI’s collaboration with colleagues around the world to promote school transport for children with disabilities. The Eden Social Welfare Foundation is well-positioned to include this guide in its outreach to Chinese-speaking communities in the region and beyond.

 Photo from a Board meeting shows (top row) Pete Meslin, guest; Ike Nanji; Tom Rickert, Executive Director; Susan Rickert, staff volunteer; Peter Straus; Susan Worts, Vice-President; Richard Weiner, President; Lucy Crain, Treasurer; and Janett Jiménez Santos, guest. Seated: Bruce Oka, Secretary, and Cheryl Damico.

Donations to AEI are welcomed. AEI is a non-profit agency, tax exempt under Article 501(c)(3) of the USA’s Internal Revenue Code.

The below news items have been reproduced from the Newsletter of Access Exchange International, June 2020 edition.


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