BEAT Memorandum to Rapid KL Regarding Accessible Buses

The following is the memorandum presented to Rein Westra, CEO of Rapid KL. It was emailed and delivered by hand to Rapid KL on November 6, 2006. This document was prepared and the contents endorsed by sixteen Non-Governmental Organisations serving people with disabilities. The NGOs are:

Persatuan Damai Orang-Orang Kurang Upaya Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan
Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled
Malaysian Spinal Injuries Association
Persatuan Mobiliti Kuala Lumpur & Selangor
Persatuan Orang-Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia
Society of the Blind Malaysia
Malaysian Association of the Blind
Society of the Chinese Disabled Persons Malaysia
Persatuan Christian Shuang Fu Untuk Orang Kurang Upaya
Persatuan Pemulihan Orang Cacat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan
Selangor Cheshire Home
Malaysian Information Network on Disabilities
Dignity & Services
United Voice (Self-Advocacy Society of Persons with Learning Disabilities Selangor & Kuala Lumpur)
Selangor Council for Welfare and Social Development
Majlis Paralimpik Malaysia
Rukun Tetangga SS2B

To: Mr. Rein Westra, Chief Executive Officer, Rapid KL
From: Barrier-free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT)
Subject: Memorandum to Rapid KL Regarding Accessible Buses
Date: 3 November 2006

Mobility is one of the most crucial factors in the rehabilitation of disabled persons. It contributes to their life in dignity and to their standard of living. It is linked to general environmental accessibility. There should not be discrimination against the disabled in the provision of public transportation services, and there should be specific measures to enable them to move freely and access the workplace and other public places.

Public transport in Malaysia, specifically buses, are not accessible to disabled persons using wheelchairs and do not have facilities to make it convenient for the blind and deaf to utilise this service conveniently. Likewise, senior citizens, pregnant women and adults with prams face difficulties when using buses.

This inaccessibility has marginalised disabled persons and those with mobility impairments. Disabled persons are unable to attend formal education in schools. Those who possess qualifications are unable to find gainful employment. They are unable to move around conveniently and therefore are not only deprived from benefiting from the progress of the nation but also are unable to contribute meaningfully in the development as well.

The Issue
Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd (RAPID KL) is the company tasked with providing an integrated public transport system in the Klang Valley incorporating rail and bus services. We understand that Rapid KL is in the process of acquiring 1,000 buses to complement and replace the current fleet. Unfortunately, we were informed that only 100 buses are accessible. This development is most alarming.

Disabled persons as citizens of Malaysia have the right to benefit from equal access to services and opportunities. Without accessible public transport, disabled persons have few opportunities to access other crucial services such as health care and education.

We call on Rapid KL to :-

• Recognise that disabled persons are consumers who have the right to the same services as others,
• Take immediate steps to incorporate the needs of disabled persons in all planning and decision making,
• Ensure that ALL new buses are accessible (non-step) buses to allow easy access to ALL persons ,
• Work with the local authorities to ensure that ALL bus stops be made accessible to benefit ALL persons,
• Consult and involve disabled persons in all policies affecting them

• Make known its Short Term and Long Term Action Plans with specific time frames and goals ( e.g. 5 Year Action Plan, 10 Year Action Plan ) to achieve 100 % barrier free buses for ALL within the set time frame.

Below, we outline the essential points we want included to make public buses accessible to all:

Basic principles
• People require access to transport to and from all parts of the Klang Valley and Putra Jaya
• The vast majority of disabled persons live throughout the community
• To privilege one group or area of residence is to discriminate against others, and therefore,
there shall be no restriction or prioritisation of particular routes

Bus stations and bus stops
• All bus stations and bus stops shall be accessible to wheelchair users
• Walkways leading to bus stations and bus stops shall be accessible
• Pedestrian crossings shall be provided in the vicinity of bus stations and bus stops, and shall be accessible and appropriately signed
• Shelters shall be provided at all bus stops
• Signs shall be clear, visible and easily read by people with low vision and people with learning disabilities
• Bus timetables shall be provided in large print, and at a level to ensure that all people can read the information
• At bus stops used by buses for several routes, buses shall use fixed stops so that people, especially the visually impaired and those with wheelchairs, can queue in advance at the correct stop
• At large bus stops, approaching buses shall be announced by number and destination, both audibly and visually
• Changes of and delays in bus arrival and departure times, including information of number and destination, shall be displayed by audio and visual means
• Bus stations shall have accessible toilets

External signs
• Buses shall be prominently labeled with the international symbol of accessibility
• Buses shall be of the low floor, non- step type, with ramps to allow easy access
• Ramps shall be made of strong, durable material, and be designed to ensure their safe use for both manual and electric wheelchairs
• Ramps shall not be designed in ways that obstruct small front wheels
• Doors shall be wide enough for manual and electric wheelchairs
Inside buses
• There shall be sufficient space inside buses to enable full maneuverability
• There shall be sufficient space to park wheelchairs inside the bus
• Priority seats with folding chairs shall be clearly labeled

• There shall be a restraining system, that is, safety-belt, floor-based restrainers, to secure wheelchairs

• Bells or buzzers shall be positioned at a level to enable their use by a person in a wheelchair
• Bells and buzzers shall be placed in the same position in all buses for convenience for people with vision impairment
• Bells and buzzers shall be lit for people with hearing loss
• Approaching bus stops shall always be announced clearly
• Approaching bus stops shall be visually displayed.

Driver responsibilities and training
• Drivers shall insist that people move to make space to allow people in wheelchairs to move into position and secure chairs
• Drivers shall not move until they are assured that the wheelchair is secured
• Drivers shall ensure that people with vision impairment, pregnant women, the elderly, and others with special needs have the opportunity to be seated
• Buses shall carry first-aid kits
• Drivers shall be trained to use first aid kits
• Drivers shall be trained to provide appropriate assistance to people who are blind, and physical disabilities, or in other ways require assistance
• Proper training of drivers shall be provided with the involvement of people with disabilities

This is by no means an exhaustive list. We not only want accessible buses but we also want such facilities to be safe. One point that we want you to note is that accessible buses can be used by all, but non-accessible buses can only be used by a certain segment of society and deprive those with mobility impairments from using it.

There is no excuse not to make public transport to serve all. As Malaysia strives to be a developed nation by 2020, we inevitably have to ensure that our standard of living will be on par with, or better than, those currently enjoyed in developed nations.

Related entries:
MoNSTerBlog – November 21, 2006: The Right To Ride
100 Buses In 30 Days – The Day Of Reckoning
Malaysian Going To Outer Space, Disabled Persons Still Stuck At Home
MoNSTerBlog – September 26, 2006: All Eyes on Rapid KL – 100 Accessible Buses In 30 Days
NST – September 25, 2006: Disabled want better access to public transport
Wheelchair-Unfriendly Rapid KL Buses

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.

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