Importance Of Access Audit In Malaysia

Access audit training in Malaysia
Photo by Wuan.

The Persatuan Orang-Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia (POCAM) through its Accessibility Committee headed by Elizabeth Ang organised an Access Audit Training for members of the association. The training was conducted by Naziaty Yaacob. She is the senior lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Malaya, and is very experienced in accessibility issues in the built environment.

I have been advocating for an accessible built environment and the Malaysian Standard MS 1184 in this blog for a while now but have never really gone into the details that go into making the infrastructure fully accessible. After the training, I realised that there were many issues that I have overlooked, especially the intrinsic details that makes a difference between endangering the lives and making public facilities safe.

Access audit training in Malaysia
Photo by Wuan.

The training was held at the Institut Latihan Majlis Kebajikan dan Pembangunan Masyarakat Kebangsaan Malaysia (MAKPEM) in Sentul. I have stayed there a once and had thought that the building was a good accessible model to duplicate as trainings for disabled people were often conducted there. It was only after the access audit exercise that we discovered a number of the facilities do not conform to the Malaysian Standard MS 1183 and MS 1184.

Accessibility is not only about ramps and toilets for wheelchair users. It is also not exclusively for disabled people. Society in general benefits from such facilities as they are safe and convenient to use. Take for example the staircase. Nosing with contrasting colour is important for indicating the edge of the steps. Wuan and I personally witnessed an elderly man falling down outside Metrojaya Bukit Bintang. He lost his footing walking unaware down an unmarked step. Fortunately he did not suffer any injury.

Access audit training in Malaysia
Photo by Wuan.

Access auditing is important in identifying barriers in the infrastructure that needs to be rectified. This will ensure that everyone has equitable use of public facilities. Malaysia still has a long way to go in this aspect. Most public buildings do not fulfil the requirements of the code of practice. This includes essential government facilities. Accessibility in the built environment is one of the two core issues affecting disabled people that has not been given due attention. The other is public transport.

The local authorities are the biggest culprit in this deplorable state of affairs as they have never seriously enforced By-Law 34A of the Uniform Building By-Law (UBBL 34A) requiring that buildings provide access for disabled people. The UBBL 34A has been in force since the 1990s. Fifteen years on, many new buildings still do not conform to MS 1184. As long as the various levels of government is not serious in resolving accessibility issues, disabled people in Malaysia will continue to be marginalized.

Penang to make public transport disabled-friendly by 2010: The Star – December 11, 2008

Published: Thursday December 11, 2008 MYT 1:20:00 PM
Penang to make public transport disabled-friendly by 2010

GEORGE TOWN: Penang will be the first Malaysian state to conduct a full audit of its public transport facilities while it develops a comprehensive blueprint to improve the access and mobility of people with disabilities by 2010.

The initiative to boost the economic and social independence of those with disabilities, will be done through a two-year pilot project by the state’s Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNPD) to study how to create a barrier free public transportation in Penang.

UNPD Assistant Resident Representative James George Chacko said the “Transport for Persons with Disabilities – Support of the Development of Accessible Transport in Penang” and its access audit on public buses, taxis, trains, ferries and airplanes as well as other infrastructures would lead to the development of a holistic transport improvement strategy that would in turn offer a framework for raising awareness levels in the general public.

“The audit will also look into pick-up points, road pavements and pathways emphasising on inter-connectivity. The findings of this audit will form the basis to develop an accessible public transport improvement master plan.

“The other initiatives to be undertaken in the coming months will include a demand responsive door-to-door transport service in Penang island; capacity building for disabled people in accessing public transportation; disability equality training for front line transport operators; training on access building requirements and universal design for contractors, architects and civil servants; designing a barrier-free bus stop model; and an awareness campaign,” he said at the launching ceremony of the UNPD-UPEN project at Dorsett Penang Hotel on Thursday.

Chacko also said the project was supported by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, and UNPD was confident with the project’s strong rationality, it would receive the necessary financial backing of the Federal Government.

“The project seeks to develop a ‘best practice’ model that we hope can be replicated nationwide,” he added.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Environment Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who launched the project, said the state government was also studying the possibility of drawing up a transport master plan and forming a state transport commission to serve as a one-stop agency responsible for planning, implementation and management if all transport issues in Penang.

“The necessary documents are currently being prepared for submission to the state executive council.

“We hope they will be ready by the end of the month or early next month before we start work on formulating the master plan, which we estimate will take one or two years to draw up and implemented,” he said. – Bernama