Inaccessible Sungai Dua

Braving the traffic at Jalan Sungai Dua.
Photo by Wuan.

One of the key concepts of Independent Living for people with disabilities is that they should live in the community instead of in institutions. Humans are social creatures. Disabled persons are no less that. We want to make friends, enjoy a glass of teh tarik at the local mamak stalls or a movie at the cinemas, and generally do everything that the non-disabled do.

Dangerous and inaccessible walkway at Jalan Pekaka.
Photo by Wuan.

One of the main barriers of community living for disabled persons is accessibility. Walkways are constructed without kerb ramps for wheelchairs and the mobility impaired and tactile tiles for the blind and visually impaired. Very often, road signs, lamp posts or post boxes are left smack in the middle of walkways. That not only impedes the passage of wheelchairs but poses a potent danger to the blind when they walk right into it.

Cars parked by the road side at Lorong Pekaka Satu.
Photo by Wuan.

Yesterday, I needed to go to the bank. It is about 1 km from my apartment. Wuan accompanied me. We took the road along Jalan Pekaka, then cut through Makro and down Jalan Sungai Dua towards USM. All along the way, we had to brave speeding traffic. Jalan Pekaka is notorious for traffic accidents and I was half expecting to be hit by a vehicle the entire journey.

Jalan Sungai Dua.
Photo by Wuan.

This fear was exacerbated by a story related to me when I was at Bangkok. Many parts of Bangkok are not accessible. And I noticed that the cars there were being driven at breakneck speed. I asked someone if there ever was an accident involving a wheelchair. Sadly, the answer was positive. A man on a wheelchair was hit by a truck on the road. The truck driver could not see the wheelchair from where he was. The impact threw the man on the wheelchair quite a distance. He was killed instantly.

A flight of stairs was built over a ramp here.
Photo by Wuan.

Crossing to the other side the road at Jalan Sungai Dua was another hazard. Without a pedestrian crossing, we had to practically run across the road to get to the other side. When we reached the bank, I faced another problem. A flight of stairs was built over where a steep ramp once was. Wuan wanted to pull my wheelchair up the steps but I refused. It would be dangerous to her and me if she were to lose her grip or miss a step. I waited by the side of the road while Wuan went into the bank.

Waiting outside the bank under the hot sun.
Photo by Wuan.

The sun was extremely hot. People with spinal cord injury like me have problems regulating body temperature and sweat. I began to feel dizzy as I waited under the blistering heat. Fortunately, the bank has some very helpful and courteous staff. They came out to get me to sign the forms and quickly completed the transaction. The journey back was equally as scary. At times like this, I wished I was back in Japan with her wide walkways and thoughtful drivers.

Inaccessible narrow walkway that even the non-disabled had problems using.
Photo by Wuan.

That is one of the reasons why many people do not see disabled persons out and about. With such dangers lurking at every street corner, we have no choice but stay in or look for alternative transport. Not many of us can afford alternative transport though. Taxis are expensive. Buses are not accessible. Those whose livelihood depended on going out in the street jungle know the risks and still go out anyway. What choice do they have?

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

8 thoughts on “Inaccessible Sungai Dua”

  1. i come visit you loh.. rememebered you said i have to come clean your house even? aiseh heh heh

    Clean house, cook, do laundry…..

  2. bugger its damn dangerous wheeling yourself to the bank okay.need to cross the busy road least wuan was with you.but dont do it again okay.

    next time gimme a call la.i can give you a ride to the bank wat.

    You are so kind. You will be hearing from me on the third week of every month. Thank you.

  3. Dear Peter,

    For the large part, these roads and accessways are constructed by developers and later handed over to our local government. The problem is that local government does not adhere themselves to the needs of disabled persons. There is simply no legislation to compel them. The developers? Well, being pure profit-driven they see no commercial sense in going that extra inch. Something must be done to move the powers that be. Anything I can do, Peter – just shout out.

    Thanks. You can advise us on the contents of the Uniform Building (Amendment) Bylaw 1991 under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1991. This bylaw was gazetted by the Penang State Government in 1993.

  4. O Great Peter, thou hath shine light onto my wide open but never seeing eye again.. with thy gigantus flood lights of truth that society as a whole is being painted a picture that is perfect and society willingly accepted in a slow and subtle way. To be honest, I never knew that places around Pekaka area is such a hazard.. in terms of width of road shoulder, ramps etc. You really are some piece of work man. But Peter, I know you are always very outspoken and truth be told type… I can accept that…. BUT PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN SAFETY … shit man… that is major overly risk taking… Penang cannot lose someone like you ok ?!!! If anything should start for the betterment of the disabled friendly environment, it should start here in Sg Dua area. Gnoh Keng Sia should here about this man… he is our freaking ADUN… for goodness sake. On the other hand… I forsee the road ahead is still a long one. Have faith…. your friends are near.

    Never mind every 3rd week… give me your ATM card … I tekan for you…. You can trust me right ? 😉 … Do let me know lah when you want to tekan the money… worst come to worst… I drive you loh….

    I hope the ramp is re-installed in Pelita .. so we can go minum teh o ais limau … kurang manis for you that is….

    Penang cannot lose someone like me? What did you drink before you posted this comment?

  5. Oh my Pete, I had goosebumps watching that photo of you by the roadside and waiting under the hot scorching sun?

    From what I understand, Independent Living is all about people who are less abled to be able to live in a community whereby necessities are easily accessible. Unfortunately, our country doesn’t quite have that. It is sad to see ramps being replaced by staircases which obviously shows that the authorities and certain people have no regard to other less abled people.

    I sure hope I can help out. Maybe a little shoutout to the local authorities of the importances of proper necessities for the less abled. So if one day you come visit, it’ll be easy for you to move around. 😉

    Thank you. A lot more can be done to make Penang, and Malaysia for that matter, accessible. I will look you up when I need help.

  6. Wah, you thought you were sitting in a tank is it?

    What “Braving the traffic at Jalan Sungai Dua.”, you were putting your life at risk ah, tai lou! Please don’t do it again!

    That is the only way I can get to the bank.

  7. Why don’t you use the bank at Tesco which is wheelchair accessible from the carpark? That way you don’t have to risk your life each month when you go to the bank and if you need transport to Tesco just let me know because I go there almost every week. However, I use a Suzuki Vitara and I wonder whether it will be possible for you to get in and out of my car.

    Thanks for the offer but Suzuki Vitara is a bit too high for me to get in and out.

  8. Dear Peter
    If I were you I would gather a pressure group for the Disability Rights of the disable and protest outside the city council chamber where your local councillor sits and threaten him or her with de-selection at the next election. This might shake those councillors up a bit if they are banking on seeking your support at the next election. Alternatively, invite the local press to print a few relevant photos and write an article to make people aware of the predicament facing the disable. Good luck.

    Unfortunately in Malaysia, councillors are not elected but appointed.

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