Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Malaysians with disabilities fight for better accessibility

From The Star in Malaysia. Pictured a disabled person must use the road because the sidewalks are inaccessible.

It takes K. Bathmavathi some time to manoeuvre herself out of her car with some assistance and she is used to this. But what she dreads is going round and round looking for a parking bay designated for the disabled.

“Time is wasted looking for a place to park and it is frustrating to find that others are using lots meant for the disabled.

Bathmavathi, wheelchair-bound since 19, said life was tough as very little was being done for people like her.

StarMetro went along with her recently and saw just how bad facilities for the disabled are.

Some had been vandalised while others were not done in accordance to the needs of a disabled person.

Even going to the banks is a problem as the buildings are not disabled-friendly - with high entrances and some without ramps.

So how do they do their banking?

“We usually wave from outside the glass door and if the security guard notices, he will come over and help carry the wheelchair up the kerb or stairs,” said Thomas Yeo.

When going out with friends, Yeo who uses a motorised wheelchair, said he could only go to a few cafes or restaurants in SS2 as not all were disabled friendly.

“Every shop has its own design and it is like travelling on a rocky road,

“Our wheelchairs cannot go up a kerb and it is not easy to push yourself up without assistance,” said Yeo, who lives with some friends at the Beautiful Gate home near SS2.

He said the journey home was also a scary one at night when cars speed past without noticing them.

He added that most of them had an emergency light attached to them or wearfluorescent vests to be noticed.

While the council has allocated parking lots for the disabled, extra space would help as they need this to get out with their wheelchairs.

StarMetro found only certain areas had allocated parking lots for the disabled but the signages had been vandalised.

The residents would be compiling a list of recommendations that the council could look into implementing to make the city a disabled-friendly city.

“We will compile a list and send it to the mayor so that he could look into it and make the necessary changes,” said Bathmavathi who is also in the sub-committee for the All Petaling Jaya Residents’ Asso­cia­tion Coalition (APAC) as well as the Association of Women with Disabi­lities Malaysia.

Razali Adom, who lives in Taman Medan, said disabled people were always looking for places to meet with their friends, sometimes for small gatherings.

“Having to organise such events in community halls is difficult as most are not disabled-friendly.

“Sometimes we want to hold gatherings with friends in larger areas but this is a problem. We have no choice but to hold this events in our houses where we are more comfortable,” said Razali who is also a member of the Malaysian Spinal Injuries Association.

Sam Foong said she only obtained her driving licence recently and realised that getting around on her own was much easier in the city.

However, just like the rest, Foong hopes the council would make available better public facilities for the disabled as they, too, want to move around and enjoy various activities like everyone else.

During a recent council fullboard meeting, PJ mayor Datuk Roslan Sakiman said all building plans would have to comply with the MS1184:2002 code of practice of Access for the Disabled People Outside Buildings and urged the departments involved to look into planning guidelines for disabled facilities.

He said several aspects that the council would be looking into seriously were the accessibility of ramps, connectivity, tactile and guilding block, lift, railings, pedestrian crossing, hand rails, grab bars, toilets and signages.