I was thinking, from my simplistic point of view, since the government is compelled to put in a second stimulus package in view of the worsening global economy, if the Minister of Finance were to allocate 1% of the RM10bil mini budget for upgrading public amenities into accessible ones, it would greatly ease the mobility problems faced by disabled people in Malaysia. Mobility is the crux of the problem that is preventing disabled people from leading independent, productive and fulfilling lives.
Two factors determine whether a disabled person is stuck at home or go out and live a full productive life – built environment and public transport. For now, both are the stumbling blocks in the scheme of things. Because of these two unattainable factors, disabled people are unable to access the essential services crucial to their wellbeing.
Without unimpeded access to the built environment and public transport, disabled people are unable to go to school to get an education, go to work to become gainfully employed and participate in the activities of society. This marginalization has reduced disabled people to depend on welfare from the government and charity from society to survive.
What needs to be done is to put in ramps where needed, renovate footpaths to conform to the prescribed dimensions, install elevators and stair lifts at all Ampang Line stations and equally important, make all buses accessible. Just imagine the improvement to the built environment and public transport this RM100mil can do. And then imagine how these improvements can translated into empowering disabled people who will be able to move around conveniently and become more productive.
An accessible built environment and public transport will open up a whole new world to disabled people. There will be more opportunities for education and employment. There will be more opportunities for interaction between disabled people and non-disabled people. That will be a good opportunity to dispel the many prejudices against disabled people. Most of all, it will make Malaysia more inclusive.
The money from the mini budget have to be spent one way or another. This is going to be a win-win situation for the government in its effort to stimulate the economy, for the contractors who need projects to keep their companies afloat in this uncertain time and most of all, disabled people will be greatly liberated in mobility and presented with more options to life.