Brazil’s urban bus fleet will have to equip itself to serve the country’s more than 26 million disabled people. The Brazilian urban bus fleet is one of the world’s largest, with 115 thousand vehicles, but companies are not required to adapt the vehicles to wheelchair users.
“The vehicles that presently offer access are used in large systems, large corridors, or trunk systems. What was missing was precisely to make conventional vehicles accessible,” affirms the director of Urban Mobility of the Ministry of Cities, Renato Boareto.
Today, as part of the commemoration of Internatiional Handicapped Day, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will sign two decrees to regulate activities related to communication, housing, and mass transportation for the disabled.
“The country’s plan is to change the urban public transportation within ten years. European countries took 20 years to make this advance. A significant historic step,” Boareto points out.
A study released by the Ministry yesterday, December 1st, reveals that only 4.5% of the bus fleet in the 218 cities that were evaluated is adequate for wheelchair users.
“The law points to the need for accessible vehicles to be produced, and this is the discussion we have been having for almost a year with Brazilian manufacturers,” the director informs.
For the Minister of Cities, Olívio Dutra, what is needed is to establish a culture with the implementation of constant measures, including consciousness-raising among vehicle-makers, to change in their role in society.
“The frames, the bodies, the machinery, and the motor must all take into account that the principal objective of transport service is the human being,” the Minister points out.
He recalls that another challenge will be to overcome architectural barriers in the cities, encouraging the construction of access ramps and walks.
The Ministry’s study shows that 193 cities have adopted access ramps. “Building adequate ramps not just on the streets and sidewalks, but in apartment buildings and housing projects, as well. All of this is part of a concept that must be put in practice,” Dutra affirms.
Besides the package of laws, the government will launch a manual to instruct bus drivers and fare-collectors on how to deal with disabled passengers.
The intention is to distribute 100 thousand of these booklets, to help imrove bus and taxi professionals’ relationship with disabled people in Brazil.
Translator: David Silberstein
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