Friday May 4, 2007
By YIP YOKE TENG
Disabled-friendly: Chew helping Lee to get on a RapidKL accessible bus at the Bangsar LRT Station.
The call is finally answered. Disabled-friendly buses will now ply selected RapidKL bus routes and there are 100 buses to start with.
RapidKL announced at the Bangsar LRT Station yesterday that 100 accessible buses had arrived with some already in use. The company hopes to have at least one of such buses in each of its 10 city routes and 63 trunk routes before launching the barrier-free system on June 1.
The buses come with a manual ramp for passengers on wheelchairs while the drivers have been trained to help them get on the buses.
Other facilities such as wheelchair lock, seat belt and head cushion have been thoughtfully included, too.
Women, Family and Community Development Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, RapidKL chief operating officer (bus operations) Mohd Ali Mohd Nor and members of BEAT (Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group) were at the function.
Ali said the company was evaluating each of its 2,500 bus stops in the Klang Valley with the aim to identify the right stops for these buses. It is also working together with BEAT and the local authorities to standardise the height of the pavements needed to support the buses’ manual ramps.
He said some of the disabled-friendly buses had been on the road since April 21 to facilitate some of the 161 newly realigned routes in the Klang Valley. The move had helped RapidKL in the process of identifying the right stops for passengers on wheelchairs.
“Some asked why we take such a long time to introduce barrier-free service. Safety is our main concern, not just safety in the buses but also safety within the whole integrated system. If we are not satisfied with the safety aspects, we would rather not implement the service first,” he said.
Ali did not reveal the cost of bringing in the 100 accessible buses but reiterated that the company did not mind spending more on durable products as the buses operate 16 hours a day.
He said the company would bring in more accessible buses over time and hoped that the entire RapidKL system could be barrier-free one day.
Chew said the government was committed to providing a barrier-free environment to the disabled where 197,519 have registered with the Welfare Department currently. Many ministries have also participated in relevant dialogues and adopting various strategies to better the lives of the disabled.
“Before this, many disabled persons depended on Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Mobility Association to move about. The association has 600 users registered with them while there were only four full-time drivers with four vans,” she said.
“Today, RapidKL opens up a new horizon. Although there are only 100 buses, still a small figure compared to its fleet of 950 buses, it is a very good start,” she added.
She urged RapidKL to cater to the needs of the disabled when it brings its services to Penang, and called upon all private and public organisations to provide disabled-friendly facilities at their premises.
She also encouraged BEAT and the disabled to work with architects, developers, engineers and contractors to better the disabled-friendly facilities of future projects.
BEAT coordinator Christine Lee commended RapidKL’s efforts amid enthusiastic applause from the floor.
“For the first time in the history of disabled person’s movement in the country, we are witnessing a bus company making efforts to incorporate user-friendly facilities to cater to the diverse needs of the travelling public,” she said.
She added that the accessible buses would benefit not only the disabled but also everyone including senior citizens and pregnant women.