AirAsia – BEAT Coordinator Christine Lee’s Speech At AirAsia’s Press Conference

Speech by Christine Lee, BEAT’s Coordinator
In conjuction with the Press Conference by AirAsia with BEAT
Date : 4th August, 2007, Time : 11 am
Venue : LCCT Departure Hall, Sepang

Dato’ Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia Malaysia Berhad,
Staff of AirAsia,
Representatives and friends of BEAT,
Members of the press and televison,
Caring volunteers and supporters,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning and salam sejahtera to all of you !

First of all, on behalf of Barrier-free Environment and Accessible Transport Group ( BEAT), I wish to thank AirAsia for inviting BEAT to attend this meaningful occasion.

For those who may still not be aware, BEAT is a coalition of 18 NGOs representing the voices and interests of various disability groups comprising thousands of members all over Klang Valley and Malaysia. BEAT is actively advocating for a barrier-free environment and accessible transport and an inclusive society for all.

BEAT welcomes the announcement made by AirAsia to enhance its facilities or amenities which include the provision of ambu-lifts, aisle chair in aircraft and assistance to travellers upon request. We certainly look forward to the day when disabled persons can travel with greater comfort in AirAsia.

We are equally happy to hear that AirAsia is also looking into making their budget hotels accessible. We urge Skybus or Skyvan to include accessibility features in their vehicles to provide cheaper and accessible mode of public transport for disabled persons to commute from town to LCCT.

We thank Dato’ Tony Fernandes, who took time off from his busy schedule to meet us and gave assurance of his full commitment to resolve the issues highlighted. ( Dato’ Tony…..you deserve our highest applause )

BEAT also wishes to acknowledge and thank Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy, Minister of Transport, for his immediate attention and intervention.

The move undertaken by AirAsia is a praiseworthy initiative and a positive step towards making AirAsia, an accessible and inclusive low cost airline in the region. It is a significant step by AirAsia in empowering disabled persons and other passengers with reduced mobility by giving them equal opportunity to travel, like every one else.

The provision of such user friendly facilities and services must not be seen as a privilege and extended exclusively for disabled persons only. They must be understood as universally accessible facilities which must be automatically incorporated as part and parcel of the overall package of services that all airlines and airports must extend to all its passengers.

We must emphasise that these facilities and services benefit not only disabled persons but also senior citizens, other passengers and international tourists with reduced mobility as well as their family members. What is good for people with reduced mobility is good for everyone.

Freedom to travel is a basic and fundamental right of every person irrespective of the condition one is in. For too many years this freedom has been denied us! It is high time that this basic right is given back to us unconditionally! It is high time that disabled persons be treated as part of the public who are entitled to the same facilities provided to everyone else.

One of the keys to independence for disabled persons is that they can travel where they want, when they want, and how they want. However, this remains only a dream and far from the painful reality for millions of disabled Malaysian citizens.

50 years of Merdeka, disabled citizens in this country still face discrimination in their everyday life ! We cannot move around freely due to inaccessible public transport and built environment. The recent launch of new buses by RapidKL and RapidPenang are classic examples of how disabled persons have been blatantly discriminated against !! Despite many appeals made by the disabled community, Prasarana continues to launch non-accessible buses!!

The business community, politicians, policy makers and Malaysian public at large, need to be sensitized and re educated to understand the issues of disabled persons from “welfare-based model” to “rights- based model.” Disabled citizens need to be enabled and given equal opportunity to move away from charity recipients to consumers with the same rights as others.

We urge YAB Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as Prime Minister of Malaysia, to include issues of disabled persons into the top national agenda of the country. Our concern must be seen as a humanitarian issue which should become a concern of every one. We also urge Pak Lah to expedite the tabling of the “Disabled Persons Bill” to protect the rights of disabled citizens and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against them.

Last but not least, we wish AirAsia all the best and may you fly higher with us along !

Thank you.

Christine Lee
BEAT Coordinator

V Murugeswaran
BEAT Assistant Coordinator

Peter Tan
BEAT Assistant Coordinator

Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) comprises 18 Organisations as listed below :-
• Persatuan Damai Orang-Orang Kurang Upaya Selangor & W.P
• Malaysian Spinal Injuries Association
• Persatuan Mobiliti Selangor & Kuala Lumpur
• Persatuan Orang-Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia
• Society of the Blind in Malaysia
• Malaysian Association for the Blind
• Society of the Chinese Disabled Persons Malaysia
• Persatuan Kristian Shuang Fu untuk orang Kurang Upaya Kuala Lumpur
• Beautiful Gate Foundation for The Disabled
• Persatuan Pemulihan Orang Cacat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan
• Selangor Cheshire Home
• Malaysian Information Network on Disabilities
• Dignity & Services
• United Voice (Self-Advocacy Society of Persons with Learning Disabilities Selangor & Kuala Lumpur)
• Selangor Council for Welfare and Social Development
• Majlis Paralimpik Malaysia
• Malaysian Council For Rehabilitation
• Lovely Disabled Home