Disabled find going tough in vending fast lane

via Disabled find going tough in vending fast lane – NewsDay Zimbabwe May 7, 2015 by Loverage Nhamoyebonde

As the norm, Nyasha Ndlovu, who uses a wheelchair, begins his day with the hustles to get transport to the city centre.

Getting transport is not easy because public transport operators always have a target to meet and people who use wheelchairs or arm clutches are a burden to them as they are “too slow and make them miss their targets”.

For Ndlovu to get to the city centre, a place where he sells his merchandise for survival, he must compete with the able-bodied for the scarce and disability-unfriendly mode of transport.

After disembarking from a commuter omnibus at Market Square in Harare, he still has to negotiate with high volumes of traffic and selfish pedestrians who cannot lose sleep over another person’s problem.

Skirting around cars and pedestrians, and negotiating a rough terrain not suitable for wheelchair users, Ndlovu still has to reach the corner of Park Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue where he hustles for a dollar.

Recently, Harare City Council issued a directive for vendors to vacate their undesignated vending sites in the central business district (CBD) and move to the legally approved sites.

The move came a month after Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo instructed all local authorities to immediately take necessary measures to remove the vendors from undesignated sites to alternative vending points.

This came as a shock to Ndlovu and several disabled vendors who are into vending for survival.

“We were not aware of that new arrangement as we are always sidelined when people meet to discuss important issues. We are hearing it from you for the first time that we were required to register because that information never reached us,” Ndlovu said.

The Harare City Council called for the registration of all vendors late last year and they successfully registered 6 000 vendors to occupy 12 approved vending sites in the CBD.

Unfortunately, the registration exercise was conducted and lapsed while the majority of persons with disabilities, who constitute a large number of vendors, were in darkness.

Nyasha Mapuranga, who is hearing and speech impaired and sells airtime at corner Chinhoyi Street and Speke Avenue, speaking through an interpreter, said she never heard about the registration exercise.

“Access to information is a major challenge we are currently facing because no one thinks of the hearing and speech impaired persons,” Mapuranga said.

“Authorities must ensure that we attend deliberations on issues that affect us and when disseminating information, there must be sign language specialists so that we will not miss out.”

She said although she was not aware of the registration exercise, she doubted the facilities that were used as registration centres were accessible by persons on wheelchairs. She said most persons with disabilities could not access important information due to their condition and the architects who built the city did not have the disabled in mind.

Harare City Council principal communications officer Michael Chideme said a number of mechanisms were put in place, which included engaging vendors with disabilities in discussions to dissuade them from using illegal vending points.

“Vendor associations were engaged to cascade the message to their members. The city designated a number of vending spots in the CBD with the capacity to accommodate 6 000 vendors. The registration exercise was well publicised and vendor associations were contacted to take the information to their membership,” Chideme said.

The facilities that were used for the registration exercise were not disability-friendly. The Publicity Office at the Africa Unity Square that was used as a registration centre cannot be accessed by persons on wheelchairs due to the absence of ramps.

The newly-approved vending sites do not have toilets that are disability-friendly.

“The city is actively looking into the issue and will soon be putting such facilities to cater for people with disabilities. The city is looking at identifying a new registration centre for people with disabilities,” Chideme said.

Council argued that the registration exercise was well publicised, but Alex Chirasha, who is visually-impaired and sells airtime along South Avenue, queried the truthfulness of the claim.

“We are not able to read council notices or newspapers because they are not in Braille. We always rely on second-hand information which is sometimes distorted and it is very difficult for us to rely on that information,” he said.

Council recently refreshed the registration process and increased the number of vending sites, but disabled vendors are still in the dark.