After being taken for a ride by Rapid KL for more than two months, members from Barrier-free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) staged a rally at the Jalan Tun Sambanthan bus stop opposite the KL Monorail Station to demand for accessible public transport on December 3. The rally was organised in conjunction with the International Day of Disabled Persons that fell on the same day.
The New Straits Times had reported on September 25, 2006 that a “RapidKL spokesperson said the transport company had bought 100 disabled-friendly buses with ramps. These would be delivered next month.”
Following the rally, a news report quoted Katherine Chew, Senior Manager Corporate Communications of Rapid KL, as saying that “the 100 units of disabled-friendly buses would be delivered in batches from Europe soon” and that Rapid KL hoped the buses will arrive by January. She also urged disabled persons to be patient as “changes cannot be made overnight.”
If waiting for twelve years is not patient enough, what is? Christine Lee and V. Murugeswaran should know better. They are veterans in advocating for accessible public transport in 1994 when STAR LRT was built without such facilities. A dozen years down the road, they are still waiting. Listening to them recount the campaign back then made me realise how little Malaysia has progressed where rights of disabled persons are concerned.
Moreover, can the promised 100 buses serve the needs of the mobility-impaired who live in different places all over the Klang Valley? BEAT foresees that the limited frequency and insufficient interconnectivity of these buses will render it ineffective. The decision to acquire only 100 accessible buses out of the 1000 that was ordered defies logic. It looks like Rapid KL never seriously considered the mobility-impaired when the decision was made for the purchase. Why limit it to only 100 when an entire fleet of accessible buses will benefit everyone?
This oversight, either deliberate or inadvertent, has led Christine and Murugeswaran to the forefront again to campaign for accessible public buses. This is another uphill battle as there is a strong reluctance to make all Rapid KL buses fully accessible. Do wheelchair users have to wait another twelve years only to be disappointed again? We certainly are not asking for things to change overnight. Public transport is a basic right for everyone, disabled or otherwise. What we want is a firm commitment and a reasonable timeframe from Rapid KL to make their entire fleet of buses accessible. Is that too much to ask for?