KEETMANSHOOP: People living with disabilities in Keetmanshoop are complaining that most buildings at the southern town, including Government offices, are not wheelchair-friendly.
The lack of ramps makes it especially difficult for them to enter and exit facilities.
Even where ramps have been installed, such as at the Karas Governor’s office, the Namibian Police Force (NamPol)’s charge office and at PEP Stores, entrance to these buildings is still difficult as the ramps are too steep or too small for wheelchairs to fit on.
Hendrik van der Westhuizen, a Rehabilitation Instructor in the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) in the Karas Region also uses a wheelchair, and raised this issue with Nampa on Monday.
Van der Westhuizen called for urgent action to be taken for the problem to be addressed.
Another problem is at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), where there is no privacy for people who use wheelchairs when they withdraw money.
“They need to put doors on the Bank Windhoek and Standard Bank ATMs so that we can shut the doors, and withdraw money safely without having people looking at our PINs (Personal Identification Numbers).
We cannot always withdraw money from the counters as the charges are very high, unless provision is made to reduce these charges,” he stated.
Van der Westhuizen explained that the new ramp at the charge office is too steep, and he and a number of other people cannot make use of it without assistance.
The Control Rehabilitation Officer at MOHSS, Richard Muchila concurred with Van der Westhuizen, saying most buildings here need ramps.
“The one at PEP Stores is slippery and can cause more disability,” he said.
Muchila noted that when new buildings are constructed, the fitting of ramps and designs that allow easy access for people living with disabilities should be a priority.
Approached for comment on the matter, the Chief Regional Officer (CRO) for Support Services at Karas Governor Bernardus Swartbooi’s office, Johan Kruger, said the design of the building made it difficult for the wheelchair ramp at this office to be at the required level.
He said this is also an old ramp which is ‘not up to standard’, and it is furthermore difficult to replace as the space around the building is too small to allow for a more suitable ramp.
“What we usually do is to always have a security guard or one of our staff members available to assist people living with disabilities to enter the building since they struggle with the ramp,” Kruger noted.
The Ministry of Works and Transport is responsible for installing ramps at Government buildings upon request from occupants.
An official Nampa spoke to at the Ministry of Works here, however, said such complaints never reached their office, but added that they are willing to look into the matter.
“Now that you told us about it, we will inspect the one at the police station and maybe rectify the problem.
But I also ask that all officials in Government buildings that need ramps provide us with official requests,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.