The report that RapidPenang will not be bringing in buses accessible to wheelchairs is disappointing news (The Star – April 4, 2006: Courtesy classes for Penang bus drivers). The statement by Datuk Dr. Teng Hock Nan is a step backward for Malaysia in respecting the rights of disabled persons in the area of transportation and mobility.
The statement that wheelchair users need special buses is not only incorrect but misleading as well. In the Asia-Pacific accessible buses are already widely used in Japan and Australia to serve not only wheelchair users but the general public. These non-step buses are also convenient for senior citizens, pregnant women and adults with prams as the floor of the buses are flushed with the height of the bus stops.
Dr. Teng’s statement is also in contradiction to Minister of Transport Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy’s announcement that the transport needs and interests of disabled persons will be included in the Public Transport Master Plan (NST – March 13, 2007: Master plan to help disabled move about). Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop was also reported to have announced that the buses will be disabled-friendly (The Star – Getting feedback on RapidPenang, March 19, 2007).
In meetings with officials from Rapid KL, representatives from the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) have been asked to be patient and told that things cannot change overnight. BEAT was also reassured that all buses acquired by Rapid KL in the future will be accessible to disabled persons, especially to wheelchair users. BEAT is a coalition of 16 NGOs of disabled persons.
During BEAT’s latest dialogue with Rapid KL in March, Chief Operating Officer Mohd. Ali Mohd. Nor said that RapidPenang will acquire 120 accessible buses. Now we hear that such buses will not be brought in. After this about turn, disabled persons will find it extremely difficult to believe that the government is really serious and sincere in addressing our transportation needs. While we accept that things cannot change overnight, we are aghast that things are not moving forward but backward instead.
This is another apparent instance of intentionally marginalising disabled persons from mainstream society. Our needs should not be seen as separate and different from non-disabled persons. We have every right to use public transport as everyone else. We have been excluded from society for far too long. Mobility is an urgent need of disabled persons, especially wheelchair users. Without accessible public transport, we are left out from educational and employment opportunities. We are also unable to participate meaningfully in social, cultural, religious and political activities because of the inability to move around conveniently.
On behalf of my peers, I appeal to Rapid Penang, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad and the Ministry of Finance to reconsider the decision to not acquire accessible buses. Such buses will benefit everyone. Do not make the same mistake that Rapid KL made in disregarding the needs of disabled persons. There should be no excuse now especially when the government is already made aware of such needs and have promised to solve it. Apa macam Malaysia?
N E W S
Monday March 19, 2007
Getting feedback on RapidPenang
By V. CHANDRASEKARAN
PENANG will set up a public transportation advisory panel soon to assess and gather feedback on RapidPenang and the proposed monorail system.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said the panel would comprise representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the state government.
“The state will brief the panel, starting off with RapidPenang. We want the system to fulfil the people’s needs,” he said.
The state would provide concessions to senior citizens, students and the disabled, he told reporters after attending a meeting with Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop here yesterday.
RapidPenang, expected to start operations in August, is a subsidiary of RapidKL that is owned by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd.
Nor Mohamed said 80 buses would ply the main roads while 40 would serve feeder roads and 30 would provide services in villages.
The buses would be disabled-friendly, he said, adding that 267 workers would be employed and the fare affordable.
The existing bus companies would continue to carry on as usual, he said.
He said the new public transport system would cost R51mil – RM31mil to buy buses while the rest as working capital for five years.
He said two RapidKL buses were now in Penang to test out the routes.
Citizens for Public Transport (Cepat) coordinator Dr Choong Sim Poey said Cepat had been pressing for the setting up of an advisory panel to voice out views and complaints from the public over the public transportation system.
“I am glad the state has responded positively. We will see whether we are invited,” he said.