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Mobility for disabled people

People with disabilities make up 15 percent of the world’s population and yet in many cities across the world, IPT systems fail to provide for their needs. This adds to the poverty and exclusion that many face. There is a need for both operators and policy makers to serve their mobility needs and to deliver the globally agreed goals for accessible transport systems for all.  

Accessible Public Transport


As set out in a policy brief developed by the High Volume Transport Applied Research Programme (2019) accessible public transport gives people with disabilities access to education, employment and healthcare, as well as social contacts with family and friends. The ability to move and travel independently is fundamental to breaking the downward spiral of dependence and poverty [17]. To support this, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 and the key target of 11.2, which calls for ‘Safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030, specifically includes public transport to meet the needs of people with disabilities as well as other vulnerable people. Globally, persons with disabilities are often referred to as the largest minority, accounting for a total of over 1 billion or 15 percent of the world’s population. Too often, they experience challenging poverty, marginalization and exclusion in society.

Fear—of how to use the public transport services as well as other passengers’ attitudes—is often a key factor, and many users report feeling unsafe on any form of public transport; and parents of children with disabilities fear for their child’s safety as one of the key barriers in their journeys to school.[18]

This results in people with disabilties often seeking out individualised solutions such as cars or taxis, or suppressing travel entirely.

The transport system in terms of infrastructure, vehicle design as well as transport service staff and operations each has many features that limit people with disabilities ability to access services and opportunity. There is a requirement for integrated approaches within the transport system across these different elements . In addition, consideration of the cross-sections between the mobility needs and constraints facing people with disabilities and those of older people and women accompanying young children is an important element of the development of successful policies and solutions.

Comparison of situations and perspectives from the TRANSITIONS cities

IPT use was found to be very limited amongst people with disabilities across all five cities, with Cape Town reporting the highest levels with 5% of respondents having mobility impairment due to age and 2% were people with disabilities. Other TRANSITIONS cities reported 1% or less respondents with disabilties using the IPT routes from the terminals where the passenger opinion surveys were undertaken. This is despite the fact many cities across Africa have higher levels of disability than the global average and, therefore, people with disabilties and impairments appear under-represented amongst IPT passengers. This woul represent substantial consequences for the mobility, income and inclusion in society of people with disabilities.


Although a low level of respondents with disabilties used IPT, these passengers stated the need to ensure the provision of assistance to persons with special needs. The views they shared  were the surveyors were quite compelling and included:

  • “There should be measures in place for people with disability”

  • “The bus conductors sometimes treats you in a bad way when you are disabled.”

  • “The step aid at the entrance or the bus is too high. They should put measures in place for older people. The conductor wasn't even here to help me get on board.”

  • “Old men find it difficult to board because the vehicles are not friendly [accessible] to them”

  • “Step aid is too high and should be down [lowered] for it to be disability friendly”

Main findings and messages

The experience of people with disabilities in using IPT from across the case study cities is very negative. There is evidence that the main form of public transport in these cities is not meeting the mobility needs of people with disabilities. As a result, they are required to find alternative means of transport or suppress their need for mobility. This is expected to result in limited access to income generating opportunities, education, health services and social networks, resulting in social exclusion.

Physical access needs may need to be addressed on a longer-term basis in relation to vehicle investment programmes but also in terms of providing awareness training and increasing the customer care skills of operators in relation to their provision of services to users with disabilities.



17. HVT 2019. Disability Inclusive Policy Brief

18. Kett, M., Cole, E. & Turner, J., 2020. Disability, Mobility and Transport in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Thematic Review. Sustainability, 12 (2), p.589. Available from: .

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