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Disabled Persons’ Endless Problems With Public Transport

May 9th, 2007 - Wednesday

Accessible RapidKL bus at KLCC
Photo by Wuan.

During RapidKL’s accessible buses pre-launch briefing for the media, Chief Operating Office Mohd. Ali. Mohd. Nor announced that 100 accessible buses will be put into service in the Klang Valley on June 1. These buses will only serve the trunk lines and city shuttles but not the local shuttles that serve housing estates. This defeats the purpose of putting these buses in service as wheelchair users will be unable to get to the trunk line hubs from their homes. Mohd. Ali should realise that the last mile connectivity is as important as the trunk lines and city shuttles.

Another major area of concern is the mismatch of height between the bus stops and the buses. The difference can be as much as 9 inches, rendering the gradient of the ramp too steep even with assisted boarding for wheelchair users. This is prevalent in most of the bus stops that the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) and officers from RapidKL discovered during a preview of the buses.

Local authorities are responsible for infrastructure such as bus stops and walkways. They must work hand in hand with RapidKL to ensure that this problem is resolved soonest possible. Additionally, walkways must be made accessible as required by the Uniform Building By-Law 34A (UBBL 34A). This by-law had been gazetted by the various state governments in the mid-90s. Unfotunately, the requirement of this by-law is ignored most of the time, leading to the pathetic and dangerous state of the walkways that exist now.

Disabled persons cannot and should not be expected to advocate to so many different ministries on only a single issue like public transport. For example, we have met with Deputy Minister of Finance Datuk Dr. Ng Yen Yen and Minister of Transport Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy. RapidKL is owned by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad which is the holding company under the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. At the same time RapidKL is also under the purview of the Ministry of Transport. Additionally, due to the bus stops being inaccessible, we have to advocate to the various local authorities which is under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Menteri Besar. And that is only one thin slice of the issues that affects disabled persons.

Dato’ Seri Chan had the foresight to establish a high level public transport advisory committee chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General of the ministry to look into the grouses of disabled persons with regards to public transport. According the him, it was set up as a single platform for disabled persons to voice out their problems without the need to run around to meet the different transport operators individually. For this, Dato’ Seri Chan gets two thumbs up.

However, it is time the government see the bigger picture of the problems faced by disabled persons. It is neither feasible nor cost effective to address issues on a piecemeal basis. The most apparent example is the mismatch of height between RapidKL’s accessible buses and bus stops. Solving one problem creates a host of other problems. It is a never ending cycle. By the way things are being done now disabled persons will still be facing barriers come the next fifty years.

Several leaders in the disability movement in Malaysia have suggested that a division be set up within the highest level of the government, namely the Office of the Prime Minister, to oversee and manage all issues related to disabled persons. With that, we do not have to scamper from one ministry to another to have our voices heard and our issues resolved. As far as we can see, this is the most effective solution. Apa macam Pak Lah?


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