When Self-Enablement Is Not Enough

I am living with tetraparesis – muscular weakness of all my four limbs. My hands are weak although I have functional use of my arms. I have learnt to live with paralysis and the necessity in doing things differently where I can and use adaptive aids where I cannot.

I renovate the house for wheelchair access. I get the best wheelchair I can afford so that I can be more independent. This is also to protect my shoulders from repetitive strain injury and to improve my posture. Even the wheelchair cushion to protect my buttocks from developing pressure sores costs more than RM1,000.

I got a car, installed a hand control kit and learnt to drive because public transport service is scant when it comes to fulfilling the needs of disabled people who need to move around. Nevertheless, I still prefer buses and trains to driving because I can dispense with the need to transfer from wheelchair to car and vice versa every time I go out.

Over the years, I have spent a handsome amount for adaptive aids and renovations to enable myself to the best of my ability. That, unfortunately, is not enough for me to live a truly fulfilling life. The world outside is fraught with barriers the moment I get out from my house. Danger from bad design and construction lurks at every turn of the corner.

What I cannot understand is why the government continue to allow barriers to be put up despite recognising the importance of accessibility to the built environment for disabled people as promulgated in the Persons with Disabilities Act. Why cannot our country, in the spirit of Malaysia Boleh, put in effort to make the infrastructure accessible to everyone?

Parking For Disabled People In Selangor And Penang

Selangor issued free parking stickers to disabled persons some time in September last year which covered all the municipalities in the state. Penang just issued similar free parking stickers to disabled persons for areas under the jurisdiction of the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP).

Frankly, I would not mind paying for parking if there are sufficient accessible parking spaces and the parking meters are convenient to use. After all, what is 30sen per half hour compared to parking in shopping complexes which ranges from RM1 to RM3 per hour?

Nevertheless, in my opinion, the practice of providing free parking for disabled people should be tied to the provision of accessible public transport and built environment. Many disabled people are compelled to drive because that is the only way to travel. The infrastructure in Malaysia is still as inaccessible as it was half a century ago.

If public transport and the built environment can provide a seamless journey, I would very much prefer to use public transport instead of going through the hassle of transferring from wheelchair into the car and vice versa, and then have difficulty looking for a suitable parking space. Using public transport is cheaper too as compared to paying for car installments, petrol and maintenance.

Free parking, therefore, should be viewed as a form of “compensation” for the lack of accessible infrastructure that impedes the mobility of disabled people. It should never be considered an act of charity on the part of the government and a right to such freebies on the part of disabled people.

Charity is not a right. It puts the beneficiary on an unequal footing with the benefactor. In the pursuit of rights, equality and dignity, disabled people should not expect to be accorded privileges. If we want equality, then we have to play our part in society, too, by paying for our share.

Anyway, what I would like to see is sufficient parking spaces of the correct dimensions for wheelchair users to exit and enter the car conveniently and safely, and that these spaces are not abused by non-disabled drivers or vehicles without a disabled passenger.

Accessible parkings should preferably be perpendicular to the kerb. The recommended width is 3.6m as prescribed in the Guidelines on Buildings Requirements for Disabled Persons published the Jabatan Kerajaan Tempatan. This recommendation complies with MS 1184 and MS 1331. The recommended width for a regular parking space is 2.4m.

Parking for disabled people in Penang - screen capture from The Star Online
Parking for disabled people in Penang – screen capture from The Star Online.

Parallel parking is not recommended unless it is away from the flow of traffic. It poses a safety risk for the wheelchair user when exiting or entering the car with the traffic passing by at close promixity. This point is what I wanted to raise when I saw the image in The Star Online.

The parking space is barely wide enough to fit the Myvi. There are two scenarios here. One: The disabled driver risks getting hit by passing traffic while entering or exiting the car, there being no space allowance for wheelchair from the flow of traffic. Two: A disabled passenger will not be able to get out. There is no space between the car and kerb on the front passenger side.

Simply painting a wheelchair logo on the parking space does not make it instantly useful for disabled people. It is apparent here that there is no compliance whatsoever to the code of practice. MPPP should upgrade these parking spaces to the proper dimensions to ensure safety and functionality of users.

I applied for and got the parking sticker from Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) in December last year. Having this sticker does not make it any more convenient when going out. Accessible parking spaces are far and few in between. When I did come across any, it would mostly probably occupied by vehicles without these stickers or other stickers with the wheelchair logo.

Selangor and Penang have taken the lead in this matter. Both states now need to ensure that there are sufficient accessible parking spaces and impose strict enforcement against people who abuse these facilities. While they are at it, they should also ensure that the areas surrounding these parking spaces are barrier-free. There is really no point in being able to park for free and not being able to move around in a wheelchair in those places.

Nonetheless, I commend the governments of Selangor (my adopted state) and Penang (my home state) for moving forward in issues of accessibility. I hope they will not rest on their laurels. There is a lot more that needs be done to ensure the full inclusion of disabled people in society.

Uniform Building By-Law (UBBL) 34A


In exercise of the powers conferred by section 133 of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974, the State Authority makes the following by-laws;

1. These by-laws may be cited as the Uniform Building (Amendment) By-laws (UBBL) 1991.

2. By-law 2 of the UBBL 1984, which in this By-laws is referred to as “the principal By-laws” is amended by inserting immediately after interpretation “detached building” the following interpretation: “disabled persons” means people; with a physical, hearing or sight impairment which affects their mobility or their use of buildings as referred to under by-laws 34A:

3. The principal By-laws is amended by inserting immediately after by-law 34, the following new by-law 34A:

34A. (1) Any building or part thereof to which this by-law applies shall –

(a) be approved with access to enable disabled persons to get into, out of and within the building for which access is provided wholly or mainly for the inspection, maintenance or repair of the building, its services or fixed plant or machinery; and

(b) be designed with facilities for use by disabled persons.

(2) The requirements of this by-law shall be deemed to be satisfied by compliance with Malaysian Standard MS 1183 and MS 1184.

(3) Buildings to which this by-law applies and which on the date of commencement of this by-law have been erected, are being erected or have not been erected but plans have been submitted and approved shall be modified or altered to comply with this by-laws within 3 years from the date of commencement of this by-law.

(4) Notwithstanding paragraph (3) the local authority may where it is satisfied that it is justifiable to do so –

(a) allow an extension or further extensions of the period within which the requirements of this by-law are to be complied with; or

(b) allow variations, deviations or exemptions as it may specify from any provisions of this by-law.

(5) Any person aggrieved by the decision of the local authority under paragraph (4) may within 30 days of the receipt of the decision appeal in writing to the State Authority, whose decisions shall be final.

(6) The requirements of this by-law shall apply to any of the following buildings or any part thereof:

(a) offices, banks, post offices, shops, department stores, supermarkets and other administrative and commercial buildings; except shop-houses existing at the commencement of this by-law;

(b) rail, road, sea and air travel buildings and associated concourses, car parking buildings and factories;

(c) hospitals, medical centres, clinics and other health and welfare buildings;

(d) restaurants, concert halls, theatres, cinemas, conference buildings, community buildings, swimming pools, sports buildings and other refreshment, entertainment and recreation buildings;

(e) religious buildings;

(f) schools, colleges, universities, zoos, museums, art galleries, libraries, exhibition buildings and other educational, cultural and scientific buildings; and

(g) hostels, hotels and other residential buildings other than single family private dwelling houses.


1. Perlis – 3 March 1994 – PS.P.U.2
2. Kedah – 30 November 1992 –
3. Penang – 11 November 1993 – Pg.P.U.26
4. Perak – 13 May 1994 – Pk.P.U.26
5. Selangor – 20 January 1994 – Sel.C.U.95
6. Negeri Sembilan – 31 January 1991 – N.S.P.U.95
7. Melaka – 22 May 1996 –
8. Johor – 7 May 1992 – J.P.U.14
9. Pahang – 28 March 1996 –
10. Terengganu – 15 December 1993 –
11. Kelantan – 3 July 1992 – Kn.P.U.5/92
12. Federal Territory – 13 August 1993 – P.U.A.305/92

*Note: The UBBL 34A was extracted from “Guidelines on Buildings Requirements for Disabled Persons” published by the Bahagian Kawalan Bangunan, Jabatan Kerajaan Tempatan, Kementerian Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan.