Disability-Friendly Upper Penang Road

This morning, I had the privilege of previewing the newly upgraded walkways at Upper Penang Road with Tan Kuan Aw, Deputy President of Society of Disabled Persons Penang, Laurence Loh, an acclaimed architect whose firm designed the walkways and other ancillary amenities, and officers from the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP). We were invited to provide feedback on its accessibility from our point of view.

The walkabout began from outside Eastern & Oriental Hotel. The walkways have been designed and constructed with the physically disabled and visually impaired in mind. There are yellow studded tiles and beeping traffic lights to guide the blind. Gentle gradients up the walkways from the road allowed effortless wheelchair navigation.

Along way, Laurence had to ask some trishaw men to remove their trishaws that were parked halfway up the walkway and were blocking our path. I foresee that a lot of education is needed in this aspect because many people do not understand the inconvenience they are causing to people like us.

Outside the Catholic Information Service two extra-wide parking bays were specially allocated for vehicles of physically disabled drivers. In Penang where parking spots are difficult to come by, this is a refreshing change. Hopefully, people who are not entitled to use these bays do not abuse this privilege reserved for those who need to use it.

The walkabout ended at the traffic island at the junction of Penang Road and Chulia Street. Several tablets were put up there to explain the history of the surrounding areas. This is a nice touch that will enlighten tourists and locals alike on why Chulia Street is also known as Gu Gandang in Chinese and that once upon a time Penang had trams running on its street among others.

Generally, I could traverse the length of Upper Penang Road with little difficulty except for the haphazardly parked trishaws and motorcycles on certain parts of the walkways. My other complaint is that some of the iron grill manhole covers are potential wheelchair traps. Other than that I am satisfied with the thought that had gone into making this part of Penang Road accessible to people with disabilities. I applaud the MPPP and Laurence for incorporating disability-friendly features in the design. I would like to see similar blueprints adopted and adapted in walkways all over Penang to enable the disabled community some degree of independence on our days out.

Update:
The Star has an article here.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Minion to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. Columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. Principal Trainer at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

15 thoughts on “Disability-Friendly Upper Penang Road”

  1. that’s nice to see 🙂

    Although sadly, the parking spots will probably be taken up by people who shouldn’t quite frequently, if it’s anything like Ipoh there.

  2. This is an interesting development.

    I think it is high time disabled people should start educating themselves on what are good and bad accessible designs. See SDPP website for accessibility guidance.
    http://www.disabledpersonspenang.org/access.htm

    And we not only say what we think is wrong but actually could recommend to MPPP or other council officers or architects what is the best design to be used.

    We need to have an accessibility checklist / access survey / access audit based on these guidance which are already available at SDPP website, when consulted by service providers and authorities.

    With more and more disabled people educating and promoting Non-Handicapping Environment or Barrier-Free Environment, by specifying exactly what they need and be satisfied with, others will also be educated. That is the first step.

    The second step is to highlight via media and promote to the public why there should not be abuse to these facilities. Then the enforcement of the authorities should be made, as disabled people should be able to take to court authorities that do not enforce what they can do under their jurisdiction, which is fining people who abuse the facilities. Refer The Streets, Drainage and Building Act, Uniform Building By-Law 34A.

    But first, disabled people would need to take the first step!

    Peter, good job on the post and all the best!

  3. Bless the people who thought of these facilities. Few years ago, when I returned to KL after not seeing it for 4 years, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the yellow walkway specially made for the blind was designed at the Brickfields area. My father, who lives alone in KL and is blind, goes to Brickfields often. More of these roads which benefit the disabled should be constructed all over Malaysia, and not just major cities.

  4. Norzu,
    Yes this is.

    Life Feel,
    😀

    BawangMerah,
    You are right. That is one of the reasons why toilets for the disabled in major shopping complexes are locked now.

    Dave,
    These facilities should be incoporated in all public places. That is the least the government can do to integrate people with disabilities into the society.

    Lainie,
    Sadly, that is a fact of life. In our struggle with the authorities to have such facilities constructed, we also have to fight with fully able-bodied morons who insist on using it for their own convenience.

    LecturerUM,
    Thanks. We hope this will be a spring board for local authorities elsewhere to implement the same policies.

    Cindy,
    More than often, such pathways are being blocked by people without common sense who park their vehicles right on it. These obstruction are extremely dangerous to the visually impaired who may trip and injure themselves.

  5. Wow!They finally finished the construction of the roads.(Clap!Clap!)

    It seemed like they are taking forever just to reconstruct the roads.Glad they are making the roads more user friendly now…

    I shall check it out when I balik kampung

  6. facets,
    Actually, they did not reconstruct the roads, they upgraded the walkways. Now it is more pedestrian friendly. Do check out the informative tablets along the way. You will learn a thing or two more about the history of Penang.

  7. The Upper Penang Rd is a praise worhty effort which however come with a multimillion price tag -and took over a year of causing hassles to the passer-by and near-by shoppers/shopkeepers (which incur costs as well). Can’t imagine if each improvement take so much `sacrifice’ to the public to succeed! Then what happen when the multi-millions are not available for other locations ? With more political will I’m sure the same can be achieved without that much compensation to the doers …however commendable the results may be!

  8. democraacy4now,
    While I can understand your concerns regarding the economics of it, we have to understand the contraints the planners had to contend with. This project was not build from the bottom up. Many ingenious methods were used to overcome the existing construction. All said, if this is implemented throughout Penang, it will not only benefit people with disabilities who most welcomed such thoughtful designs, it will make traipsing fun around the old city for tourists, especially with the various informative tablets scattered throughout the walkways.

  9. Halo Peter !

    I support your idea of implementing disabled friendly pavement/walkways all over the city -but the high cost (RM5mil/.5 km) will see to it that there won’t be any more of it !

    It is a real pity.

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