Disabled Persons’ Endless Problems With Public Transport

Accessible RapidKL bus at KLCC
Photo by Wuan.

During RapidKL’s accessible buses pre-launch briefing for the media, Chief Operating Office Mohd. Ali. Mohd. Nor announced that 100 accessible buses will be put into service in the Klang Valley on June 1. These buses will only serve the trunk lines and city shuttles but not the local shuttles that serve housing estates. This defeats the purpose of putting these buses in service as wheelchair users will be unable to get to the trunk line hubs from their homes. Mohd. Ali should realise that the last mile connectivity is as important as the trunk lines and city shuttles.

Another major area of concern is the mismatch of height between the bus stops and the buses. The difference can be as much as 9 inches, rendering the gradient of the ramp too steep even with assisted boarding for wheelchair users. This is prevalent in most of the bus stops that the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) and officers from RapidKL discovered during a preview of the buses.

Local authorities are responsible for infrastructure such as bus stops and walkways. They must work hand in hand with RapidKL to ensure that this problem is resolved soonest possible. Additionally, walkways must be made accessible as required by the Uniform Building By-Law 34A (UBBL 34A). This by-law had been gazetted by the various state governments in the mid-90s. Unfotunately, the requirement of this by-law is ignored most of the time, leading to the pathetic and dangerous state of the walkways that exist now.

Disabled persons cannot and should not be expected to advocate to so many different ministries on only a single issue like public transport. For example, we have met with Deputy Minister of Finance Datuk Dr. Ng Yen Yen and Minister of Transport Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy. RapidKL is owned by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad which is the holding company under the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. At the same time RapidKL is also under the purview of the Ministry of Transport. Additionally, due to the bus stops being inaccessible, we have to advocate to the various local authorities which is under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Menteri Besar. And that is only one thin slice of the issues that affects disabled persons.

Dato’ Seri Chan had the foresight to establish a high level public transport advisory committee chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General of the ministry to look into the grouses of disabled persons with regards to public transport. According the him, it was set up as a single platform for disabled persons to voice out their problems without the need to run around to meet the different transport operators individually. For this, Dato’ Seri Chan gets two thumbs up.

However, it is time the government see the bigger picture of the problems faced by disabled persons. It is neither feasible nor cost effective to address issues on a piecemeal basis. The most apparent example is the mismatch of height between RapidKL’s accessible buses and bus stops. Solving one problem creates a host of other problems. It is a never ending cycle. By the way things are being done now disabled persons will still be facing barriers come the next fifty years.

Several leaders in the disability movement in Malaysia have suggested that a division be set up within the highest level of the government, namely the Office of the Prime Minister, to oversee and manage all issues related to disabled persons. With that, we do not have to scamper from one ministry to another to have our voices heard and our issues resolved. As far as we can see, this is the most effective solution. Apa macam Pak Lah?

Monster Blog – April 6, 2007: RapidPenang Ignores The Transportation Needs Of Disabled Persons

RapidPenang Ignores The Transportation Needs Of Disabled Persons

The report that RapidPenang will not be bringing in buses accessible to wheelchairs is disappointing news (The Star – April 4, 2006: Courtesy classes for Penang bus drivers). The statement by Datuk Dr. Teng Hock Nan is a step backward for Malaysia in respecting the rights of disabled persons in the area of transportation and mobility.

The statement that wheelchair users need special buses is not only incorrect but misleading as well. In the Asia-Pacific accessible buses are already widely used in Japan and Australia to serve not only wheelchair users but the general public. These non-step buses are also convenient for senior citizens, pregnant women and adults with prams as the floor of the buses are flushed with the height of the bus stops.

Dr. Teng’s statement is also in contradiction to Minister of Transport Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy’s announcement that the transport needs and interests of disabled persons will be included in the Public Transport Master Plan (NST – March 13, 2007: Master plan to help disabled move about). Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop was also reported to have announced that the buses will be disabled-friendly (The Star – Getting feedback on RapidPenang, March 19, 2007).

In meetings with officials from Rapid KL, representatives from the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) have been asked to be patient and told that things cannot change overnight. BEAT was also reassured that all buses acquired by Rapid KL in the future will be accessible to disabled persons, especially to wheelchair users. BEAT is a coalition of 16 NGOs of disabled persons.

During BEAT’s latest dialogue with Rapid KL in March, Chief Operating Officer Mohd. Ali Mohd. Nor said that RapidPenang will acquire 120 accessible buses. Now we hear that such buses will not be brought in. After this about turn, disabled persons will find it extremely difficult to believe that the government is really serious and sincere in addressing our transportation needs. While we accept that things cannot change overnight, we are aghast that things are not moving forward but backward instead.

This is another apparent instance of intentionally marginalising disabled persons from mainstream society. Our needs should not be seen as separate and different from non-disabled persons. We have every right to use public transport as everyone else. We have been excluded from society for far too long. Mobility is an urgent need of disabled persons, especially wheelchair users. Without accessible public transport, we are left out from educational and employment opportunities. We are also unable to participate meaningfully in social, cultural, religious and political activities because of the inability to move around conveniently.

On behalf of my peers, I appeal to Rapid Penang, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad and the Ministry of Finance to reconsider the decision to not acquire accessible buses. Such buses will benefit everyone. Do not make the same mistake that Rapid KL made in disregarding the needs of disabled persons. There should be no excuse now especially when the government is already made aware of such needs and have promised to solve it. Apa macam Malaysia?



Monday March 19, 2007

Getting feedback on RapidPenang


PENANG will set up a public transportation advisory panel soon to assess and gather feedback on RapidPenang and the proposed monorail system.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said the panel would comprise representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the state government.

“The state will brief the panel, starting off with RapidPenang. We want the system to fulfil the people’s needs,” he said.

The state would provide concessions to senior citizens, students and the disabled, he told reporters after attending a meeting with Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop here yesterday.

RapidPenang, expected to start operations in August, is a subsidiary of RapidKL that is owned by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd.

Nor Mohamed said 80 buses would ply the main roads while 40 would serve feeder roads and 30 would provide services in villages.

The buses would be disabled-friendly, he said, adding that 267 workers would be employed and the fare affordable.

The existing bus companies would continue to carry on as usual, he said.

He said the new public transport system would cost R51mil – RM31mil to buy buses while the rest as working capital for five years.

He said two RapidKL buses were now in Penang to test out the routes.

Citizens for Public Transport (Cepat) coordinator Dr Choong Sim Poey said Cepat had been pressing for the setting up of an advisory panel to voice out views and complaints from the public over the public transportation system.

“I am glad the state has responded positively. We will see whether we are invited,” he said.

Bernama – March 12, 2007: Public Transportation Masterplan Ready In 9 Months

March 12, 2007 17:07 PM

Public Transportation Masterplan Ready In 9 Months

PUTRAJAYA, March 12 (Bernama) — The government’s public transportation system masterplan is expected to be ready in nine months, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said.

He said the masterplan for the capital cities would ensure a more coordinated and well planned public transportation system for the country.

“The government has made a decision to come out with the masterplan of public transportation system in all the capital cities of the country, from Kangar all the way to Kota Kinabalu,” he told reporters after meeting representatives from the disabled people organisations, services providers and public transportation operators.

He said the decision to come out with the masterplan was made by the Cabinet committee on public transportation a few months ago.

“We are in the midst of appointing a consultant to carry out the works,” he said.

He said the masterplan would also include the needs of the disabled people.