Malaysian Going To Outer Space, Disabled Persons Still Stuck At Home

This was sent to Letters to the Editor of The Star on September 28, 2006 but was not published.

Malaysia is heading for exciting times as the nation celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence next year. Around that time, we will have a cosmonaut in the International Space Station (ISS) as reported in “Russia-bound astronaut candidates inspired after meeting Abdullah” (The Star, September 27, 2006). This puts another feather in the cap to mark our achievements as a maturing nation.

While we wait in anticipation for the day one of our own steps into the ISS orbiting 350 km above us, it is ironic that a group of people back home here in on Earth cannot move around conveniently, even for distances a fraction of that to the ISS.

In the haste to improve the public transport system in the Klang Valley, disabled persons are once again left out in the planning. None of the new Rapid KL buses are accessible to wheelchair users. Even senior citizens have problems boarding the buses because of the unfriendly height of its steps.

Disabled persons are disillusioned by empty promises. There was a protest in 1994 when it was apparent that STAR LRT was not accessible. 12 years later, wheelchair users still cannot use the trains because there are no elevators up to the platform, or use any public transport for that matter.

We are beginning to wonder if our needs will ever be addressed. Do we need to resort to staging demonstrations and protests again to get our voices heard? For what it is worth, it is an uphill battle for us all the way and all the time.

What does it take for the government to realise that accessible public transport is an urgent need without which we cannot do much. We have to miss out on education and work opportunities. This makes us even more disadvantaged.

The often heard excuse of not including accessible facilities is the cost factor. How can we put a price on the rights of fellow citizens? Public transport is for all, irrespective of physical condition. The needs of one group must not be at the expense of another. However, in the case of public transport, it looks like the needs of disabled persons are at the lowest of priorities.

As we anxiously wait for the first Malaysian to go into outer space, I urge to government to seriously look into the plight of disabled persons who cannot even get out from their homes. We should not look that far out when we have not even tackled challenges that are right in front of us.

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. Columnist of Breaking Barriers in 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.

6 thoughts on “Malaysian Going To Outer Space, Disabled Persons Still Stuck At Home”

  1. Add to this the Sports Center in London and we can see where Malaysia’s priorities are! What most of us don’t realise is that one day, sooner or later, many of us or at least of our loved ones will have accessibility problems and then it will be too late to start complaining about the poor facilities or the lack of these.

    Peter:
    We are far behind where a barrier-free environment is concerned. I do not foresee any radical changes in his area in the near future. Makes us wonder where the priority lies huh!

  2. Yeah, the Sports Center in London is a waste of money… Why must Malaysia setup a sports complex out of the country? The gov should spend the money within the country itself to benefit all the people….

    The gov somehow is getting “funnier & crazier” these days.

    Peter:
    Like I said, why look so far away when we cannot even keep our backyard in shape.

  3. I don’t understand why building the sport center in LONDON either. *scratch head*

    Seriously, they increase prices of almost everything from here and there..toll, petrol, food..bla bla bla.. and what they do with the money? Erm..I wundah.

    Peter:
    We should ask the government what their priority is? Sports glory or welfare of its citizens?

  4. Another well written piece.I see the irony of it- one man goes where only few can dream of and another is stuck in the confines of the concrete jungle because of the manmade impediments to his mobility.Problem is, in Malaysia,you’ve got to either have the money or a strong vote at the ballotbox before you can influence the movers and the shakers.How much do ramps and special buses cost compared to a trip to outer space anyway? I thought weeds would be cheaper to get spaced out.

    Peter:
    I was given to understand that there is not much difference in price between inaccessible buses and those that come with ramps, etc.

  5. I visit alaska every now and then to fish and I can’t help but observe how wheelchair friendly the public transport is.The drivers are extremely friendly,the bus lowers to pavement height ,a ramp extends out and the person is either pushed in by the driver or gets in him/herself.The wheelchair is then locked in a special positon in the bus by the driver with a strap.You see disabled people going about their business in their motorised wheelchairs without any problems at all.We have a long way to go.

    Peter:
    We definitely are way behind many countries in terms of accessibility.

Comments are closed.