Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Indonesia's Parliament votes to require disabled pedestrians to wear signs "identifying them as handicapped"

From AFP:

JAKARTA -- Disabled pedestrians in Indonesia are required to wear signs identifying them as handicapped under new traffic regulations passed unanimously by parliament on May 26.

Amendments to the Traffic and Transport Law state "handicapped pedestrians must wear special and clear signs which can be easily recognised by other road users."

The lawmaker in charge of the committee which drafted the amendments, Ahmad Muqowam of the Islam-based United Development Party, said they were designed to protect disabled people from road accidents.

"This is a humanistic act. It's for their safety on the streets," he told AFP.

Asked what the signs should read or where people should wear them on their bodies, he said this was up to the government to decide at a later date. "They won't be penalised if they flout the rule; it's only a precaution for their safety," he added.

Transport experts said the law was preposterous and the government should focus on providing facilities such as level footpaths and wheelchair ramps rather than requiring people to wear signs.

"It is strange when handicapped people are asked to carry extra burdens and obligations," Institute of Transportation Studies chairman Darmaningtyas said.

Association of the Parents of Disabled Children chief Hendratmoko said: "This is a mistake. Why should our children put signs on their bodies?

"I don't understand what's motivated the lawmakers. They should give protection by providing facilities for the disabled. There are hardly any facilities even in a big city like Jakarta."

Critics have complained that the amended law gives priority to car drivers over pedestrians and those using public transport, and runs counter to efforts to encourage people to take buses to alleviate pollution and traffic jams.

The Indonesian capital, a city of some 12 million people, is choked daily by traffic gridlock (pictured) but there are almost no facilities for pedestrians - able-bodied or otherwise - except footbridges.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has predicted that by as soon as 2014 Jakarta could experience total gridlock, where all road space is filled with barely moving vehicles.