With particular sensitivity to the needs of persons with disabilities, OASTH has offered since 7-4-2005 a groundbreaking programme of free services for disabled persons using 4 specially designed buses (3 regularly scheduled and 1 on reserve). This innovative service is now in its eighth year of daily operation, available from 6:00 to 22:00 weekdays and 7:00 to 23:00 Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, and has met with a very positive response from the disabled persons it serves, their families and the people of our city. Each transfer of a disabled person may be scheduled one day before the day of travel by phoning the Organisation, or through staff of associations for paraplegic individuals or institutions which house persons with disabilities, at 2310-933930 or 2310-952638 (available 7:30-21:30), both of which are available exclusively for this purpose. As part of OASTH's social contribution, the Organisation also provides group transfers of persons with disabilities for social purposes.
The Organisation's top priority is to transport persons with disabilities under the best conditions possible, with ease, comfort and safety. To that end, the buses are state-of-the-art, specially equipped to facilitate boarding and disembarking and are air conditioned, with cooled bottled water provided during summer months (if technically possible), and an attendant who ensures the safe boarding and disembarkation of and provides general assistance to persons with disabilities.
To date, the free transport programme has served 382 disabled persons (of which more than 284 use a wheelchair or have serious mobility impairments, giving them priority to the service, 10 were completely blind and 88 had less serious mobility impairments or other disabilities).
A total of 82,485 transfers were made since the service was launched up to December 2012, of which 70,836 involved individuals using a wheelchair or those with serious mobility impairments, while the other 11,649 were people with vision impairment or other disabilities.
On average, more than 1,000 persons with disabilities are served each month with transport related to work, health, education or recreation.
The rate of response to requests for transport made by telephone is around 91.5% (the goal is to serve up to 100% of requests for service), while the rate of completing pre-arranged pick-ups is 100% and with absolute punctuality.
In addition to the daily schedule of transport using the aforementioned free service for persons with disabilities, OASTH has also responded to requests by organisations and associations of disabled persons, working with them to provide free mass transport for groups of disabled individuals attending group activities, or scheduled events of a local, national or international nature. Specifically, groups of disabled people were transported for the following purposes:
• June 2008, as part of an international conference on the European "Grundtvig" lifelong learning programme for persons with mobility impairment or developmental disabilities in cooperation with the Special Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki.
• March 2009, as part of the 4th Open Swimming Championship for persons with disabilities, in cooperation with the Hellenic Sports Federation for Persons with Disabilities.
• May 2009, as part of a transnational meeting under the European "Grundtvig" lifelong learning programme for persons with disabilities, in cooperation with the Parents, Guardians and Friends of Persons with Disabilities Association "Amimoni".
• May 2009, as part of the Greek Special Olympics, in cooperation with the non-profit organisation, Special Olympics Hellas.
• September 2009, as part of the cultural event "Greek-Serbian Meeting of Artists with or without Disabilities", staged by the Institute for Community Rehabilitation.
• December 2009, mass transfer of persons with disabilities with 5 buses to and from the KAPPA 2000 (Centre for Development of Culture and Adapted Sports) facilities in Peraia, Thessaloniki, as part of a social event highlighted by the theatre performance, There is no peak that can't be conquered.
• March 2010, as part of the 5th Open Swimming Championship for persons with disabilities, in cooperation with the Hellenic Sports Federation for Persons with Disabilities.
• March 2010, as part of the European Disability Forum in cooperation with the National Confederation of Disabled People (ESAEA).
• March 2010, as part of the Panhellenic 5X5 Football Championship for the Blind, in cooperation with the Hellenic Sports Federation for Persons with Disabilities.
• December 2011, mass transfer of persons with disabilities with 5 buses to and from the KAPPA 2000 (Centre for Development of Culture and Adapted Sports) facilities in Peraia, Thessaloniki, as part of a social event highlighted by the theatre performance, Heaven on Earth.
• November 2012, mass transfer of persons with disabilities with 4 buses to and from the KAPPA 2000 (Centre for Development of Culture and Adapted Sports) facilities in Peraia, Thessaloniki, as part of a social event highlighted by the theatre performance, A Starry Sky.
In addition to the above services, the Organisation further strives to meet the needs of persons with disabilities by offering the following services:
I. About 80% of the buses are accessible to persons with disabilities and have a kneeling system to facilitate boarding, while also helping other individuals requiring special assistance (the elderly, pregnant women, etc.);
II. There are 4 seats inside buses specially designated for persons requiring assistance (the elderly, pregnant women, parents with young children, etc.);
III. The Passenger Charter includes special regulations outlining services provided to persons with disabilities, while also providing for entry into buses of visually impaired or blind persons accompanied by a guide dog.
IV. Since September 2007, a visual and audio telematic system to announce bus stops has been in operation on all buses, making travel easier for persons with hearing and vision problems.
V. OASTH has already installed an audio system to announce bus arrivals at telematic smart stops, activated by devices used by visually impaired individuals at traffic lights. The system is operating on a pilot basis at the School for the Blind bus stop and will be expanded to 19 new stops in cooperation with and on the recommendation of the Panhellenic Association of the Blind and the Institute for the Protection of the Blind in Northern Greece ("Ilios" School for the Blind).
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