During the pre-launch of RapidKL’s accessible buses, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development Parlimentary Secretary Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fen “encouraged BEAT (Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group) and the disabled to work with architects, developers, engineers and contractors to better the disabled-friendly facilities of future projects.” (The Star – May 4, 2007: RapidKL to operate 100 buses with accessible facilities)
BEAT has been working with RapidKL since September 2006. With the impending introduction of the accessible buses, BEAT has also been working with a couple of local authorities to ensure that the heights of the accessible buses and the bus stops match and that all connecting pathways are barrier-free. Members of BEAT will also be sitting in a committee chaired by the Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Transport to iron out issues on public transportation in Malaysia.
Many of the members of advocating under BEAT are employed full-time in the private sector and are contributing whatever free time they have to this advocacy movement. Our manpower and resources are stretched very thin. Whatever expenses that we incur in the course of BEAT’s activities come out from our own pockets. We are not complaining though. On the other hand, we hope that the government will do their part by ensuring that infrastructure and facilities are properly done the first time around. This can be achieved by adhering to the requirements of the Uniform Building By-Law 34 which stipulates that the “by-law shall be deemed to be satisfied by compliance with Malaysian Standard MS 1184 and MS 1183.”
The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has a specialised section with a team of officers within the Department of Social Welfare to manage the affairs of disabled persons called the Bahagian OKU Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Malaysia. This section should keep up to its namesake to ensure that issues related to disabled persons are addressed and resolved.
It was highly inappropriate to suggest that BEAT, or disabled persons for that matter, do the work that the government has already assigned a specific ministry or several other ministries to look after. Disabled persons cannot be taking leave from work every now and then to run all over Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya to liaise with ministers, government officers, transport operators, architects, developers, engineers and contractors to get things done properly. It is the government’s job to do that.
As it is, our mobility is already severely restricted due to the unavailability of an accessible urban public transport system which in turn hampers our opportunity to participate in educational, employment, social, cultural, religious and political activities. It is a gross injustice against the dignity of disabled persons as citizens with equitable rights to have to solve the problems that restricts our movement and growth at our own expense. In the first place, these barriers were created by various parties including the government.
It is high time the various ministries work together seriously to resolve all the outstanding issues related to disabled persons instead of pushing the buck around. The government is supposed to solve problems, not create it. Politicians and wakil rakyats were elected to solve problems faced by the electorate, not push it back to the electorates to solve it themselves. Perhaps disabled persons can see miracles ala Machap and Ijok where projects will be approved and completed post-haste during the General Election? Apa macam Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun?