Disabled travel in Cape Town

Wheelchair parking
To me it looks like the sign painted on the tar reserves this huge parking bay for someone who's ready to relax on a strangely-shaped chair, or or oddly-shaped bed. But then, I guess I did take the photo from this reasonably obtuse angle because it looked slightly quirky.

I've never given much thought to how disabled people, or (in this particular case) folk in wheelchairs, get around Cape Town. I'd never thought much about how easy, or perhaps difficult it is to navigate our many tourist attractions, visit our shopping malls, or roll to the edge of a sandy beach (can one ride wheelchairs onto beach sand, and if so, as with 4x4s, do you have to deflate their tyres a little?). :)

I guess now that Kerry-Anne's been making her way around on crutches it's caused me (and perhaps us both) to consider how easy or difficult it is to get around. I've given it some thought and if I think about the places that we mostly frequent, many of them and most tourist attractions in and around Cape Town cater for wheelchairs and people that find it difficult to get around.

I did a little research and found (amidst the sea of tour operators, hotels and B&Bs) two South African companies that specialise in tours for disabled travelers. The first is RollingSA, and the second (Cape Town-based) Flamingo Adventure Tours. Do you know of any more that specialise in disabled travel? Please share them in a comment below.

2 thoughts on “Disabled travel in Cape Town

  1. Lunachance

    I visited Cape Town in April of 2010. I use forearm crutches to get around and cannot travel long distances on them. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around. There are wheelchairs that can be “borrowed” (I think we left a 50 rand deposit, that was refunded when the chair was returned) at the waterfront. The only comment I have is that it would be nice to have the wheelchairs available at both ends of the waterfront because it was quite a trek from the red/blue bus depot. Fortunately, my travel companion was able-bodied and could return the chair and then walk back to the bus depot. We went to the Jazz Festival and there were wheelchairs to borrow at the information center (had to leave a driver’s license, no funds required). There were also stages set up for the wheelchair fans and their guests (free water was given out on these platforms). The raised areas are really nice, as the festival was standing room only and there are not that many attractive behinds that I wanted to look at :) Also, we could see the performers on the stages and not have to lean or stretch to view the artists. The red/blue buses were convenient as well. They have hydraulic systems that allow the bus to “kneel” down and wheelchairs could easily board the vehicle. Now, one could not go upstairs in these buses, but there airconditioning was on inside and that was nice. One of the advantages of being on crutches was that we did not have to wait in the long line to go up in the cable cars at Table Mountain (again, thanks to the concierge for suggesting we purchase our tickets on line before we went up).
    We stayed at the Westin. The concierge suggested hiring a driver to see the sights. This was the best idea, as we did not have to share a bus with 60-80 of our closest friends! The driver was able to suggest a route where we were able to go out to Seal Island, drive along Chpaman’s Peak, see the penguins, go to the Cape of Good Hope, end up in the wine country. He catered to our needs, and it was nice not having to climb up several stairs every time we got to a place where we wanted to get out of the car and take pictures.
    I know that all of South Africa was getting ready for the World Cup, and we felt that disabled people would be welcome. The pavement was very good (when using crutches or in a wheelchair, bumps and cracks in the footing are big challenges), we felt safe every place we visited and had a fantastic visit. Another advantages of being on crutches was that we did not have to wait in the long line to go up in the cable cars at Table Mountain (again, thanks to the concierge for suggesting we purchase our tickets on line before we went up).
    Basically, it all boils down to attitude. Some days really do suck, but it is what you make of it. I would return to Cape Town in a heartbeat (it sure made the trip easier by flying from Atlanta to J’burg, then to Cape Town — but it is a long airtrek from the states).

    Redmond, WA

  2. Paul

    Post author

    Hi Lunachance, a recent spam comment on this post reminded me that I’d intended to reply to your comment. Wow – it sounds like you had an awesome time visiting Cape Town. Thanks for all the useful info that you gave about the wheelchair at the Watefront, the buses the kneel before you ;) and how the folks at the jazz festival made sure that you’d be able to see.

    I know exactly what you mean about it being a long flight from the US. I’ve flown to Las Vegas twice (for business sadly) and wow – the total travel time from Cape Town to Vegas was 31 hours! I can imagine that for someone on crutches it’s quite difficult.

    Thanks again for stopping by!

    Keep well,

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