South Africa has, in general, become much more aware of travellers with special requirements and most major attractions and facilities across the country can be counted on to accommodate visitors with disabilities.
The rights of disabled people are enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution, and legislation requires that public buildings and other places be accessible to everyone.
Major attractions, airports, service stations, public buildings, game reserves and shopping centres have appropriate access, ablution facilities and parking.
South African National Parks’ camps and visitor destinations, for example, provide ramped access into their main facilities. In many cases, accessible public ablution facilities are provided, including those at the camping sites. Many short trails also have Braille-interpretation plaques.
There are also selected units in many of the camps that have been adapted for use by mobility impaired guests (people in wheelchairs, using crutches, with prams, with frailty or reduced energy levels).
If you have specific accessibility requirements, your best bet is to request appropriate accommodation when you make a booking.
Most visitor facilites at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden are wheelchair friendly. However, it is set on a very steep slope and not all areas of the garden are accessible. There are parking bays for the physically challenged at the main gates.
- SA National Parks: www.sanparks.org.za, with detailed information for visitors with disabilities
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: www.sanbi.org
Making it simpler
Compiled by an occupational therapist, Disabled Travel lists facilities, accommodation and restaurants that have been evaluated with travellers with special needs in mind. Especially useful are the photographs of the facilities’ bathrooms.
You may want to join a custom tour with an operator such as Rolling SA. All accommodation venues on their tours have been inspected to ensure that they are accessible and disabled friendly.
Flamingo Tours also specialise in tours for people with disabilities, especially blind or sight-impaired and deaf or hearing-impaired guests.
Eco-access is a Section 21 company that has a database of accessible destinations, especially those that give people with disabilities access to nature.
Guide dogs are allowed to travel in the cabin with their owner on most domestic flights, including all South African Airways flights. Be sure to confirm this when making your booking.
Adapted rental cars, including those with hand controls, are available from some of the larger car rental companies, such as Avis, Budget and Imperial. Make sure you book in advance.
The Gautrain Rapid Rail Link’s stations are fully accessible and every second train and feeder bus has special access for disabled passengers. Hearing and sight-impaired travellers are also catered for.
You can hire wheelchairs and scooters from Mobility One in Johannesburg. They will deliver to the airport or your hotel.
- Read more: Driving in South Africa
The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has integrated universal accessibility into its grading criteria. This aims to encourage compliance by the hospitality sector with international standards, especially those related to access, signage, and ease of general daily tasks.
- Tourism Grading Council: www.tourismgrading.co.za
New South African banknotes are marked for tactile identification, although there are still some unmarked notes in circulation. The large geometric shapes on the front of the notes are meant as an aid for partially sighted.
Money templates and coin selectors can be purchased from the South African National Council for the Blind.
- South African National Council for the Blind: www.sancb.org.za
- South African Guide Dogs Association: www.guidedog.org.za
- Deaf Federation of South Africa: www.deafsa.co.za
- QuadPara Association of South Africa: www.qasa.co.za
- Department of Tourism: www.tourism.gov.za
Reviewed: August 2013
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