When Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) came to remove the road hump on 16th January, I was away at Bandar Baru Sentul for the Regional Asia Pacific Training of Trainers on Disability Equality Training workshop. Otherwise, I would have loved to see it being removed. Jamali Othman, the MPAJ engineer was on site to oversee the demolition work together with Gary Lim, Head of Legal Bureau for MCA Pandan Division, and his assistant Winnie.
MPAJ officers using the backhoe to scrape away the road hump.
Image courtesy of Gary Lim.
Gary and Winnie had been pursuing the matter with MPAJ on our behalf after Dorothy Cheong, the ahli majlis for our zone, did little to help us resolve the issue. As part of our campaign, we had sought legal advice as another option which we are glad we did not have to resort to. With help from friends we got the story published in Berita Harian and The Star. At the same time, as residents whose houses faced the hump, we sent a complaint to the Yang DiPertua MPAJ via email, outlining our objections on 28th October 2012. Jamali came to see us on 8th November 2012 to discuss a solution to the matter.
Another shot of the removal of the hump by MPAJ.
Image courtesy of Gary Lim.
We initally approached Jenice Lee, the ADUN for Teratai, after the hump was built. She had asked Dorothy to look into the matter. Dorothy kept insisting that the hump was built at the request of a majority of ten residents along the road. She also said “I believe people of your situation would more than welcome it because it will practically slow down vehicles from speeding and thus safety is the priority in the mind of these residents in your neighbourhood.”
The neighbours with Jamali Othman (3rd from left), Winnie (4th from left) and Gary Lim(right).
Image courtesy of Gary Lim.
My lengthy explanation to her and Jenice that the hump is a barrier to my mobility and a hazard to my safety fell on deaf ears. Jenice then suggested a meeting with the other residents to sort this out. We unanimously objected because when the hump was built outside our houses, we were never consulted first. Jenice even mentioned that “From the picture I received, the hump is built in between your house and your neighbour.” It was clear how little she understood what our complaints were all about.
In our letter to the Yang DiPertua, we pointed out that other residents were invited to sign a petition for the road hump twelve days after it was built, contrary to what Dorothy told me in her second email that MPAJ had received ten requests to install the road hump from residents in July 2012. Up till today, I still cannot understand why there was a need to get residents to sign the petition when a request by ten residents had already been submitted and approved by MPAJ earlier.
Dorothy was reported in The Star to have said, “We can’t entertain one person’s complaint as we want to help everyone.” Did she mean to say that my safety concerns are irrelevant? As a disabled person, I do not have the right to object to facilities that will endanger me, especially when it is right outside my house? She also obviously left out the fact that my neighbour had gone to her office to make a complaint and sought her assistance on this matter as well.
Anyway, I am glad this is all over now. Many people had a hand in helping us resolve this matter in one way or another. Thanks to Gary Lim and Winnie for their relentless pursuit to have the hump removed; Pierce Wong who connected me to Datuk Wong Sai Wan to get the news published in The Star; Paul Choo who came out with the caricature to highlight the issue; Edmund Bon, Khor Boon How and team for the legal advice; and to everyone who has supported us. All your effort came to fruition. Thank you.
Tags: ADUN Teratai, disabled people Malaysia, Dorothy Cheong, Edmund Bon, Gary Lim, Jamali b Othman, Jenice Lee, Khor Boon How, Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya, MCA Pandan Division Head of Legal Bureau, MPAJ, Pierce Wong, road hump, wheelchair user Malaysia, Wong Sai Wan, Yang Dipertua Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya
It is difficult to get disabled people to come together to advocate on a common cause. Logistics is always a big problem due to the inaccessible public transport system. Apathy and complacency are among the other reasons.
We do come together nonetheless to work on various issues affecting the community, especially on access to public transport and buildings. There is a consensus that these advocacy activities must be inclusive of all disabled people irrespective of their impairments.
At the same time, other people who may be affected, like senior citizens, pregnant women and adults with prams, are also included. This is the kind of advocacy that I support, disabled people working towards a society that is truly inclusive of all.
I am appalled that some disabled drivers are asking for priority to use accessible parking over vehicles with disabled passengers. Their reasoning is that they need the extra space to unload and load their wheelchairs and that they are alone.
These disabled drivers have not taken into consideration the inconvenience such an “awareness campaign” will cause to the disabled passengers and their assistants who usually double-up as drivers too.
Wheelchairs for disabled passengers require as much space for loading and unloading as those for disabled drivers. Many disabled people do not drive due to the severity of their impairments. Having an assistant does not make it any easier. In fact, it is a heavy burden for the assistant who has to drive, park the vehicle, unload the wheelchair and help the disabled person transfer.
Distributing flyers asking that priority be given to disabled drivers and discouraging vehicles with disabled passengers from using accessible parking under the guise of creating awareness will only create more confusion as to who are entitled to those parking.
Disappointingly, some car parks already have such a policy in place. It may even move more car park managers to deny vehicles with disabled passengers from using accessible parking as “disabled people are asking for this so must be the right thing to do.”
Signboard at 1 Utama indicating accessible parking only for disabled drivers.
Photo courtesy of Mdm. Cheah Yu Shih.
Accessible parking spaces are there for a purpose. They are wider than regular parking spaces. The extra space allows wheelchair users to get in and out of the vehicles safely and conveniently, irrespective whether they are the driver or passenger.
Disabled passengers and assistants who are “discouraged” from using the accessible parking may risk getting hit by passing vehicles if they have to do transferring by the access way because once the vehicle is parked in a regular space, the wheelchair user will have problem getting out or back into the car. The same may happen to disabled drivers.
Campaigning for priority use of accessible facilities goes against the spirit of equality and inclusion. Therefore, instead of asking for priority for disabled drivers, disabled people should work together to demand for more parking spaces.
I am also disappointed to note that disabled people who are advocating for equality in using the MBPJ accessible community van service are throwing their support behind the call to give priority to use accessible parking to disabled drivers. I have blogged about this van service in Transit OKU Should Be For All Wheelchair Users In PJ.
These disabled people own cars but still use the van service. I have no quarrel with this. Disabled people have the choice and are entitled to this service. They can choose to drive or they can choose to use the van service. It must also be noted that when these disabled drivers choose to use the van service, they may be depriving other non-driving disabled people from using it.
What is most appalling is the double standard that these people are practicing. To them, equality is only meaningful if they can get something out of it. Otherwise, they will push for privileges and priority to use facilities meant for all disabled people.
In that case, why should other disabled people who are marginalised by these “awareness campaigns” support advocacy activities for facilities that they will never get to use? That is the main reason why the disability movement in Malaysia is weak. Some people will only participate if they can get something out of it instead of working together for the good of the community as a whole.
I have said it then and I will say it here again. In advocating for our rights, we should not deny others theirs. This is one of the basic principles disability-rights advocates must adhere to. We should not, at any time, segregate disabled people into classes, be it social, financial, colour or creed. We have been fighting against exclusion for a long time. We know all too well the pain of being marginalized. Therefore it is contradictory to exclude one of our own based on discriminatory criteria.
There are laws in Malaysia that protect the rights of disabled persons. The Uniform Building By-Law 34A (UBBL 34A) of the Street, Drainage and Building Act has been in force since 1991 to ensure equal access to public buildings for disabled persons. The landmark Persons with Disabilities Act (Akta Orang Kurang Upaya) was enacted in 2008. Malaysia became a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 8th April, 2008 and ratified the document in 19th July, 2010.
However, Malaysia did not sign the Optional Protocol to the CRPD. The Optional Protocol allows individuals to lodge complaints with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should a signatory country violates its obligations under the CRPD where the complainant has exhausted all avenues domestically.
The UBBL 34A requires that buildings constructed after it came into force be accessible to disabled persons and that buildings existing before that must be retrofitted with such facilities within three years. These facilities must comply with the Malaysia Standard MS 1184: Code of Practice on Access for Disabled Persons to Buildings. Twenty years later, many old buildings are still not renovated to comply to the by-law and newer buildings were built with facilities that are not usable and not built according to the code of practice. Furthermore, the PWD Act has not changed the situation for the better. Public transport, schools and other infrastructure are still inaccessible to disabled persons.
With these shortcomings in view, the Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok (PRLB), a community centre run by the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR) and the Kuala Lumpur Bar Young Lawyers Committee (KLYLC) conducted a Strategic Litigation Workshop for disabled persons at the KL Bar Auditorium last Saturday to work on legal solutions to compel the authorities to comply with the UBBL 34A and the PWD Act. This workshop was the last of a series of four Public Interest Litigation Workshops to promote the human rights in the country.
It was unfortunate that the auditorium which was located in Wisma Kraftangan was inaccessible. There were no ramps for wheelchair users to get into the building. The venue was then changed to the Malaysian Bar Council’s Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium. The switchback ramp outside the building was rather steep and wheelchair users had difficulty ascending it independently on manual wheelchairs. There was also a safety issue with the landing where it did not have rails to prevent wheelchairs from going off the edge.
At the same time, pedestrian walkways leading to the building were fraught with poorly designed kerb ramps, drain covers with wide gaps and broken pavings. Incidentally, the Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) headquarters, the authority responsible for the upkeep of these facilities, is just a short walk away.
Disabled persons and lawyers at the Strategic Litigation Workshop held at the Malaysian Bar Council Auditorium.
Nevertheless, in spite of the barriers, about twenty disabled persons and an equal number of lawyers huddled in the auditorium. The workshop kicked off with the lawyers briefing the participants on the legal approaches and processes. Disabled participants also gave feedback on the problems with regards to inaccessibility to public buildings.
After tea break, participants were facilitated on their understanding on where disabled people stand in the scheme of things as citizens in this country in the session that was aptly called the Big Picture. What struck me most was how the interests of disabled people are under-represented in the entire political and administrative system. This session was followed by the Action Pyramid where we were presented with various options on advocacy activities that could be utilised to further the cause.
This workshop and the unfolding events represent another significant milestone in the annals of disability rights movement in Malaysia and a major step forward since the PWD Act came into force in 2008. The Kuala Lumpur legal fraternity, namely the MCCHR and KLYLC, deserve all the credit for their initiative in upholding and protecting the rights of disabled people in this country as provided for under the law.
After the conclusion of the workshop, participants were treated to a very scrumptious lunch of Peranakan cuisine at Precious Old China Restaurant & Bar in Central Market. A big thank you to all lawyers involved for generously contributing their time and effort for the betterment of disabled people in Malaysia. Things will never be quite the same for us again.
Tags: Action Pyramid, Akta OKU 2008, Akta Orang Kurang Upaya 2008, Big Picture, disabled people Malaysia, discrimination against disabled people, Kuala Lumpur Bar Council, Kuala Lumpur Bar Young Lawyers Committee (KLYLC), Malaysian Bar Council, Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR), Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, Precious Old China Restaurant & Bar, Public Interest Litigation Workshop, Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok (PRLB), PWD Act 2008, Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium, Strategic Litigation Workshop, UBBL 34A, Undang-Undang Kecil 34A Undang-Undang Kecil Bangunan Seragam, Uniform Building By-Law 34A