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Warkah Buat Pak Lah

August 21st, 2008 - Thursday

Dear Pak Lah,
I just saw in the news on tv that you made a surprise check on KTM Komuter and Kelana Jaya Line. You saw for yourself the problems that people are facing when using these two lines. Did you see any wheelchair user in the trains? Did you see any disabled person while you were waiting at the station? No? If 5% to 10% of the population is disabled, you should statistically see at least one disabled person out of every ten non-disabled people that you met at the train stations. Do you know why?

Come, let me tell you. It is very simple. The external built environment, the first step towards the liberty of wheelchair users, is full of barriers. There are no ramps to pedestrian walkways. Sometimes, there are no walkways at all. We have to risk life and limbs to go on the road to move from point to point and risk being hit by vehicles. There are also very few pedestrians crossing for us to cross the road safely.

The buses – no wheelchair user can get into one. Government-owned RapidKL and RapidPenang have promised to make their buses friendly to us. None are despite the repeated promises. We waited and waited. In the end, the supposedly wheelchair-friendly RapidKL buses that were shown to us had badly designed ramps and rickety wheelchair restraining system and very few bus stop that wheelchair users could get to. So no go there too.

Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said that only 50 disabled people have applied for the 10,000 jobs made available in the public sector. She also said that disabled people “cannot just expect us to knock on your doors and inform you about the opportunities.”

Truth be told dear Pak Lah, we do not expect Dr. Ng to come knocking on our doors one by one to inform us of job openings. No, she has more important things to accomplish than to do that. We know there are openings but how are we supposed to go to work when almost all the infrastructure in the country is hostile to disabled people. The built environment is against us. There is no public transport that we can take.

When disabled people cannot even access these two basic facilities safely and conveniently, how can we go to school to get an education and acquire the necessary qualifications to be gainfully employed? How can we go to workplaces when the same problems in the built environment and public transport still beset us?

Pak Lah, please listen to our heartfelt pleas. We have been marginalized for so long that our community have been left far behind as compared to the rest of the rakyat. Most of us are under-qualified, unemployed and dependent on our family or charity to survive. We feel so depressed sometimes thinking about the pathetic situation we are in now.

We want to be active participants in society and contribute meaningfully to nation-building. We want to lead a fulfilling and productive life. We are unable to because of these unresolved problems. Do you know how ridiculous it is that Datuk Sheikh Muzaphar could go to the International Space Station which is more than 300km away in outer space and come back safely while a wheelchair users like me cannot even get to KLCC from Pandan Perdana which is a mere 10km apart in distance using public transport?

Pak Lah, we beseech you to use all the power and resources within your means to correct this situation. Disabled people do not want to be still marginalized like this when Malaysia achieves developed nation status in 2020. I hope you will find that little spark of conscience in your heart to do what is right in this matter. I look forward to the day when Malaysia is a country with infrastructure that is inclusive and accessible to everyone. It is then that the government can say with a firm conviction that Malaysia is truly a masyarakat penyayang.

Thank you for your time.

Yours very sincerely,
Peter Tan
Wheelchair user of 24 years


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