It has been a while since I wheeled to the Pandan Perdana wet market with Wuan. Most of the time we just drive there although it is just a short walk from where we live due to the various barriers we encounter on the pavements along the way. Last Sunday, we decided to take a leisurely walk to the market for breakfast. What I encountered that morning reminded me of why I had seldom gone on such strolls.
Wheelchair user on the road to avoid the broken pavement at Pandan Perdana.
A damaged section of the pavement forced me to go on the road. This broken pavement at Jalan Perdana 3/1 of Pandan Perdana has gone unrepaired for the past few months. A heavy crane truck that parked on it broke the concrete and gouged a big hole in the turfing. Many residents use this route to go to the wet market and also to the bus stop situated just down the road. Pedestrians, especially senior citizens, may trip on the broken slabs of concrete. Wheelchair users like me have no choice but go on the road and risk getting run over by passing vehicles.
It is very common to see vehicles parked on it causing pedestrians to go on the road as well. Such inconsiderate drivers should be heavily penalised for illegal parking, causing obstruction and endangering pedestrians. The Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya should step up its enforcement against these law breakers. Another alternative is to put up bollards or rails to prevent vehicles from parking on the pavements. However, the pavements needs to be widened to 1200 mm to conform to the MS 1184 and MS 1331. It is a tight fit for wheelchair in its current form at 900 mm.
I took the news of the Kuala Lumpur MRT project with some enthusiasm and many pinches of skepticism. Past experiences have taught me that public transport facilities for disabled people in Malaysia always fall short of the acceptable standards despite assurances from the government.
The main grouse with public transport in the Klang Valley for disabled people is the lack of accessibility and poor connectivity. Right from the moment one steps out from the house and even before reaching the bus stops, there are multiple barriers to contend with.
Sidewalks, footpaths and pavements generally lack kerb ramps or damaged by indiscriminately parked vehicles. These are in addition to obstructions along the pathways and drain grilles that can potentially trap wheels and heels. The problem does not end there.
At the time of writing, there are no accessible buses serving Pandan Perdana where I live. I am certain this is not an exception. Most of the RapidKL buses serving housing estates are not accessible. The question begging answers is how are disabled people suppossed to get to the MRT stations from our homes?
Circle of Mobility for Disabled People
To ensure that disabled people have access to the MRT, the Circle of Mobility for Disabled People must be considered from a holistic perspective. The journey to the bus stops, the buses and eventually to the MRT stations and the trains must be uninterrupted by barriers. Otherwise, the most accessible MRT stations will be useless to disabled people because we cannot get to them.
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