PRESS RELEASE, PENANG, 20 MAY 2007
BARRIER-FREE TRANSPORT IS TRANSPORT FOR ALL
On Saturday, a major Forum on Public Transport for Disadvantaged Groups was held at the Complex Masyarakat Penyayang, organised by 10 Penang-based NGOs and with the participation of national speakers and opened by Dr Teng Hock Nan. The 100 participants, from a wide range of disability-related organisations and CEPAT (Citizens for Public Transport), re-affirmed their commitment to Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport for all.
Participants from the forum were pleased to read a statement in Saturday’s Star from State Executive Councillor Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan, that “Even if the headcount is very low, RapidPenang will still service the routes.” Clearly the right to public transport is the only consideration. Given this, we were shocked to read in Sunday Star that people using wheelchairs will not have accessible transport as a right, and that RapidPenang does not intend to introduce wheelchair accessible buses at this time. Dr Teng’s statements are confusing, contradictory and discriminatory: the headcount is clearly irrelevant for all Penang citizens, but used as sole criteria for access to transport for people with disabilities.
We find it outrageous that buses have been purchased which accommodate the needs of the elderly, pregnant women and children, and we are surprised that they need “special seats.” To our knowledge, while priority seats may be identified for people from these categories, they are not especially constructed. At the same time, Dr Teng stated that people with disabilities must wait for a survey before barrier-free transport is introduced. This is a delaying tactic. Forty NGOs in Penang have already made it clear that there is a need, and this is reflected in the Memorandum submitted to Dr Teng at yesterday’s forum.
Even more extraordinary is the statement that Singapore’s transport policy is to be emulated. It took Singapore 20 years to introduce barrier-free buses on 6 routes. It took Rapid KL 8 months to purchase 100 buses to cover 63 trunk routes and 10 city shuttle routes, with more to come. Perhaps Penang should look to KL rather than Singapore.
Although Dr Teng opened the forum, he obviously treated the views of its participants with disdain. People with disabilities have never had access to transport, and have always been deprived of the freedom of movement and opportunities to participate in society and to contribute to the nation.
This press statement is issued for immediate release by Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) Coordinator Christine Lee and Assistant Coordinator Peter Tan who were also speakers at the Forum on Public Transport for Disadvantaged Group.