ACSA creates wheelchair-friendly options at PE airport

2019-09-04 06:01

INVOLVEMENT with the SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday campaign has seen Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) effect a number of changes to make the Port Elizabeth airport more wheelchair-friendly.

Several years ago ACSA put its hand up to take part in the campaign, with Airfield services manager Selvin Meyer acting as the assistant to colleague Bulelwa Bloko, in the wheelchair.

As they went about their assigned tasks, which included a trip through the airport, Meyer said the first thing that struck him was that there was no access for people living with disabilities to the first floor in the fire station where the Emergency Control Centre (ECC) staff and their offices were situated.

“This meant that the ECC, based on that level, would have difficulty offering any services to a person living with a disability,” Meyer said.

“That was one of the reasons why we have now moved the ECC to the roof of the terminal building, which has access through lifts, while wheelchair ramps have been created where necessary.”

He said they went through a number of possible movements around the airport that people living with disabilities would face.

“This included putting Bulelwa onto the platform on the truck called a passenger aid unit, which hoists wheelchair-bound passengers up to the aircraft.”

From a passenger point-of-view, Meyer said they had looked at various aspects to improve facilities and enable easy access for those confined to wheelchairs.

“For instance, we created further parking bays for people living with disabilities in the shaded parking area, as close to the terminal as we could.

He said the stop-and-go areas in front of the terminals were for dropping off passengers, which could be done within five minutes.

“There is one drop-off area for people living with disabilities, adjacent to the stop-and-go section, but we recommend that the shaded parking be used if this space is not available.”

Meyer added that within the concourses they had created more ablution facilities with clearly marked signs for wheelchair users.

“We have upgraded these facilities in the arrivals and departures terminals, while we have also created ramps in all sections of the airport to ensure easier access for those with mobility problems.”

ACSA has also considered employees or visitors to its office blocks in terms of accessibility, with a wheelchair stairlift having been installed at the bottom of the stairs.

Meyer said this allowed those in wheelchairs to be placed on a platform and kept safe with a safety barrier around the person enabling them to be electronically moved on a railing up and down the stairs.

“This applies not only to wheelchair users but also to people on crutches who may have difficulty going up the stairs,” he said. Meyer said they had collaborated with APD, which resulted in the purchase and installation of evacuation chairs at all the lifts and staircases.

“Moving forward we will endeavour to incorporate the physically disabled requirements and needs into all future infrastructure and facility projects,” he said.

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