December 02, 2013
A Visitor’s Guide to Accessible Cape Town
Marisah lives by a simple philosophy of eat, travel, read, write, laugh, listen and love.
Heartland is where she grew up in the Mother City, the Karoo and Overberg region and these are the places she returns to every time, boarding pass in hand. Passionate about travel, she’s working towards her Master’s Degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management with a special interest in luxury travel, destination management and sustainable tourism development. Her calling in life is finding the perfect cheesecake recipe.
Cape Town can, with some careful planning, deliver a really enjoyable holiday experience for visitors with special access needs. Whilst we have some distance to go to being a completely Universally Accessible (UA) destination, awareness is on the rise and with it the number of improvements made to our city.
Accommodation establishments are now being graded on how universally accessible they are. Until formal accreditation is established to identify UA establishments, it is best to contact the hotel or guesthouse directly and ask for details on the advertised facilities. The understanding of e.g. ‘wheelchair-friendly’ can vary and a ramp installed with the best of intentions may be too steep for use depending on your specific needs. Online restaurant guides like Dining Out offer users the option to search for wheelchair-friendly restaurants. Call ahead and check on the availability of disabled friendly parking bays and whether a different entrance to the main one must be used.
Several improvements in and around Cape Town are aimed at making life easier for people with special access needs. Traffic lights at pedestrian crossings in popular parts of the City Centre work with an audio signal and tactile flooring has been applied to guide visually impaired visitors. Lowered curbs make it easier for wheelchair users to move around. It is best to move around with a companion though as these upgrades have not been made in all areas and you may require assistance at certain points in the city.
The hop-on-hop-off ‘Red Bus’ as it is affectionately called, is a great option for people with special needs. A hydraulic ramp makes getting onto and off of the bus easy for wheelchair users and secure locked in wheelchair allocations with safety belts make for a safe journey. Visually impaired visitors can experience the city through the 16-channel multi-language system through the use of headsets and ushers can assist visitors with getting on and off the bus.
My CiTi Bus stations offer level boarding for all passengers, induction loops at ticket kiosks for the hearing impaired and tactile flooring and signage for visually impaired passengers. An extendable boarding ramp is provided by the smaller My CiTi busses serving residential areas and the central city routes.
TAILOR MADE TOURS
Cape Town is home to specialist transportation and tour companies like Travel with Renè. Owned and operated by Renè Moses, who is a quadriplegic after a motor car accident in 1995, they offer vehicles that cater for wheelchair users and their travel companions for airport and point to point transfers, bespoke tours with a certified guide and vehicle hire.
OUT AND ABOUT
The large shapes on the front of new South African banknotes are intended to help partially sighted people.
Cape Town Stadium was designed with 120 disabled seats that can be accessed via a ramp on Fritz Sonneberg Road. These seats are located on Level 02 along with toilets for disabled guests. Please make sure to book your special seat and parking bay through the ticketing agent to enjoy some of the world’s best bands in this amazing venue.
The V&A Waterfront is on one level for the most part, with a ramp here or there, and accessible toilets and parking bays available. If you want to make a day of it, you can also visit the Two Oceans Aquarium and meet the City Sightseeing Bus again at the stop outside of the aquarium.
Special wheelchairs can be obtained at Strand, Gordon’s Bay and Bikini Beach and these beaches also have access points for wheelchairs. Keep an eye out for the lifeguard on duty as they’ll issue you with a wheelchair.
Muizenberg Beach is rated highly by people who have a hearing impairment because of the excellent signage at the beach. Colourful sign posts show everything from the weather, tides, local bird and sea life and the Shark Spotters make use of colourful flags rather than an audio alarm to alert bathers to any danger in the area. Once in the water, befriend other surfers and ask them to keep an eye out for you and introduce yourself to the lifeguards before going in the water to make sure that they know you won’t be able to respond to audio alerts.
OUT IN NATURE
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden offers wheelchair users dedicated parking bays, wheelchairs for hire, disabled toilets and wheelchair accessible restaurant and coffee shop. For visually impaired people, the lower routes are very well sign posted and there’s a Braille Trail and Fragrance Garden designed for people with visual impairments.
Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West provides a Universal Access boardwalk and visitors who want to avoid the madding crowd can become a Friend of the nature reserve and buy an Early Riser key to access the reserve from 5.00 am in the morning.
Green Point Urban Park is a treat for visitors who are hearing impaired with sign posts throughout describing the types of plants, giving historical context about the people who lived in the area once and their relationship with nature and Table Mountain.