The matatu is many things. A magnificent chariot bedecked in wonder to some, a terrifying tin can which threatens life, limb and sanity to others they are the means of travelling through Nairobi. From Westland to East Leigh one has to use these great ships of the road to move about the city.
Visitors to this city find their carefree approach to driving, idiosyncratic designs, loud, fun music and cheap fairs thrilling, our social media intern included. For 50 shillings one can cross vast distances in sometimes surprsing speed, though more often in shocking sloth, in style if not comfort. This is the spirit of Nairobi made animate steel.
The pot holes of the roads transform the humble bus ride into a sea-voyage on a storm tossed ocean. It is perfectly normal to be thrown into the air. Nor is it unusal for the matatu to take a sudden, and frankly, startling lunge to port or starboard according to the whim of the road, driver or traffic. On the way in today our intern had a terrifiying moment where the bus kept going deeper and deeper and listing further and further into a worryingly large puddle.
This is not a means of transport suitable or even useable by all people. The steeps steps make the mere alighting impossible for those whose mobility is limitied. The rough driving would make for a frightening and dangerous ride for someone who is visually impaired. There is no space for wheelchairs. This creates a cruel cycle whereby those who are already limited in their movement are further hindered and so excluded further and further from interacting with the society around them.
This means that access to jobs, employment or even shopping for basics are severely restricted. Beyond this it means that meeting friends and family, or attending church or other organisations, things which support and enrich a life, is so much harder, if at all possible.
For these reasons WCC is looking into the available options to improve disability access, we hope to be able to report back with good news.