Disabled facilities in South Africa increase with new awareness

Facilities for the disabled in South Africa are perhaps not as numerous as they should be, but the good news is that there is a groundswell of awareness regarding the ‘special needs' sector of the tourism market.

One area where the country lacks the necessary amenities is in accommodation, but this is set to change with the adoption of the Universal Accessibility Grading Scheme by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA).  It encourages compliance by the hospitality sector with international requirements for travellers who are mobility, visually or hearing impaired.   These requirements relate to access, signage, and ease of general daily tasks. There are 4 gradings - from Bronze to Platinum.

Otherly abled travellers will find that most shopping centres, airports, office blocks and public buildings have special facilities in terms of parking, access and ablutions, though sometimes limited in number.  Wheelchairs are often made available at these facilities, but advance booking is suggested.  Some car rental agencies also have hand-controlled vehicles for hire.

A number of local specialist tour operators do an excellent job in tailoring packages for disabled tourism in South Africa, researching suitable resorts, attractions and activities.  As their offerings reveal, there's a surprising amount on offer, from adventure tours to camping trips.

A useful online information service is provided by Disabled Travel, which evaluates South African disabled facilities such as restaurants, hotels and attractions, compiled by an occupational therapist.  South African National Parks also devotes space on its website detailing facilities in premier tourist attractions such as the Kruger National Park.

The Gauteng-based Gautrain Rapid Rail Link, currently opertaional between OR Tambo international Airpport and the Sandton CBD in Northern Johannesburg, and the Kempton Park CBD on the East Rand, is geared toward otherly abled passengers. Stations are geared to otherly abled commuters, and every second train and feeder bus has special access for otherly abled passengers.