Every December 3, we observe the International Day of Disabled People (IDDP). The theme for IDDP 2010, as promulgated by United Nations Enable, is “Keeping the promise: Mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals towards 2015 and beyond.” The website also suggested how this day may be observed, namely:
Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all stakeholders – Governments, UN system organizations, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the MDGs.
Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the Day focusing on disability issues and development, finding innovative ways and means by which persons with disabilities and their families can be further integrated into the development agenda.
Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase – and celebrate – the contributions by persons with disabilities to the communities in which they live as agents of development and change.
Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to mainstream disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further their participation in social life and development on the basis of equality. Take action to highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive policies, as well as promote public awareness of the contributions by persons with disabilities to the development of their communities.
I see no joy in celebrating this day dedicated to disabled people. The only reason I am writing this is to put on record my disappointment at how, despite promises and assurances by top politicians, people in high government positions, people who can effect change from both sides of the political divide, barriers that have been preventing full participation by disabled people have not been eradicated.
True, new public infrastructure have accessible facilities, but these, like I have pointed out in the “Circle of Mobility for Disabled People” are islands in an ocean of barriers. There is simply no convenient connectivity from one point to another, even in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. What more can disabled people living in the other cities and towns throughout the country expect?
As far as I can see, nothing much has changed from 26 years ago. Nothing much has changed since the gazetting of the By-Law 34A of the Uniform Building By-Law in the mid 1990s that specifically requires buildings to be accessible to disabled people. What has changed since the Persons with Disabilities Act came into force in 2008? And what has changed since International Day of Disabled People 2009? The concluding paragraph of last year’s entry is food for thought.
Talk is cheap. I have heard ministers, wives of ministers and government officials talk about making life easier for disabled people. Many of these “positive announcements” are archived in this blog. As far as I am concerned, nothing has changed. 1Malaysia kah or Rakyat Didahulukan kah, disabled people are still marginalised in every way through ommission, ignorance and discrimination. The people in government should stop talking and start working towards achieving equalisation of opportunities for disabled people. Just resolve our issues. It is as simple as that. We do not need the government spending money celebrating this day but not doing anything afterwards. No thank you!
Tags: Akta OKU 2008, Akta Orang Kurang Upaya 2008, disabled people Malaysia, International Day of Disabled People, International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2008, Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, Uniform Building By-Law 34A, wheelchair user Malaysia
Casuarina tree outside Restoran Khaleel blocking almost the entire sidewalk at Gurney Drive.
Continuing from my previous entry regarding the lack of kerb ramps to the seafront promenade at Gurney Drive, there actually are quite a number of them across the road. The first kerb ramp is outside Evergreen Laurel Hotel where the blind man crossing sign is. However, there is no ramp to get off the sidewalk at the other end.
The subsequent kerb ramps outside the Zealand Cafe, Carnation Cafe and Song River Cafe are either poorly constructed or lead to sidewalks blocked by trees, phone booth or lamp posts. Wuan and I encountered a lamp post right in the middle of a sidewalk reminiscent of the one that we maneuvered around at Pandan Perdana and fell off the pavement and onto the road.
Lamp post right in the middle of sidewalk at the junction of Persiaran Gurney – Jalan Birch.
When these sidewalks are not blocked by trees or street furniture, we encountered vehicles indiscriminately parked on the driveways and blocking access to the kerb ramps. In the end, I had to go on the road, too, and face oncoming traffic passing by inches away just like what I experienced the day before.
Wuan and I had gallivanted around Gurney Drive several times before this and I wonder how we managed then. We must have had more courage back then. Or perhaps we had faith in drivers in Penang to be careful and considerate. The accessible facilities for disabled people in Gurney Drive are simply built without much thought and consideration, and are a danger not only to disabled people but non-disabled pedestrians as well.
Indiscriminately parked vehicle blocking access to kerb ramp at Gurney Drive.
Like I have repeated so many times before, building a ramp does not make it wheelchair friendly, handicapped friendly or disabled friendly, whatever we choose to call these facilities. They must be safe to use and barrier free. The ones at Gurney Drive are not. They fall short of even the most basic of requirements.
The people at Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP) must take note of these matters seriously. It is a matter of life and death for disabled people when we have to go on the road to move from one point to another. It is not that difficult to make good kerb ramps and sidewalks that are barrier free. But I see the same mistakes being duplicated all over all the time.
Helo? There is a phone booth blocking the sidewalk at Gurney Drive.
This issue is not unique only to Gurney Drive, or Penang for that matter. Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) and Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh (MBI), to name a few, all build facilities that are mostly non-usable by disabled people despite of the availability of Malaysian Standard MS 1184: Code of Practice for Access for Disabled Persons to Buildings and Malaysian Standard MS 1331: Code of Practice for Access of Disabled Persons Outside Buildings
The engineers, architects and whoever are in charge of such infrastructure in the local governments are not doing their job properly. Two years after coming into force, the Akta Orang Kurang Upaya (Persons with Disabilities Act) rings hollow for disabled people whose right of equal access to public facilities are still being overlooked and ignored.
Tags: access audit, accessible tourism, Akta OKU 2008, Akta Orang Kurang Upaya 2008, curb ramp, disabled people Malaysia, footpath, Gurney Drive, kerb ramp, Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh, Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya, Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang, MBI, MPAJ, MPPP, MS 1184, MS 1331, Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, sidewalk, street furniture, wheelchair user Malaysia
Wheelchair user forced to use the road at Gurney Drive.
Photo by Wuan.
Wuan and I were in Penang last week. That was not the first time we played tourists at Gurney Drive. The previous times we were there, we liked to stroll along the Casuarina-lined promenade early in the morning and evening to soak in the beautiful seascape and then adjourn to one of the numerous kopitiams for some local hawker fare afterwards.
The Toyota Unser sped by just mere inches away from a wheelchair user at Gurney Drive.
Photo by Wuan.
We did the same this trip except we realised that kerb ramps to get to the promenade are far and few in between. I had to go on the road for quite a distance from the Gurney Resort Hotel and Residences, where we were staying, before we arrived at the first kerb ramp opposite Evergreen Laurel Hotel. In between that, I had to brave oncoming traffic on the road, hoping and praying that I won’t get hit by a car or a motorcycle speeding by us before I got to the kerb ramp.
Wheelchair user fighting for space on the road at Gurney Drive.
Photo by Wuan.
Gurney Drive is a rather long stretch of road, about 1.9km from end to end. Likewise the seafront promenade, which is a continuous stretch of uninterrupted walkway. There are simply too few kerb ramps for wheelchair users to get onto the promenade or get off to go to the kopitiams across the road. As a popular tourist destination, the lack of accessibility makes it difficult for disabled people to fully enjoy our time there. Most importantly, our safety is severely compromised each time we are forced to use the road with other vehicles while trying to locate a kerb ramp.
Blind pedestrian crossing sign and kerb ramps on both sides of the road at Gurney Drive.
Photo by Wuan.
The Penang state government, the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP) and the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia should make a serious effort in improving the accessible facilities at Gurney Drive in line with the government’s effort to promote tourism in the country as well as to fulfil the obligations as required under the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, namely the rights of equal access to public facilities, and to recreation and leisure activities.
Tags: accessible tourism, Akta OKU 2008, Akta Orang Kurang Upaya 2008, curb ramp, disabled people Malaysia, Gurney Drive, inclusive tourism Malaysia, kerb ramp, Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang, Ministry of Tourism Malaysia, MPPP, Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, wheelchair user