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
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.
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.
Tags: abuse of accessible parking, accessible parking, disabled driver, disabled parking, disabled people Malaysia, free parking stickers for disabled people, Jabatan Kerajaan Tempatan, Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya, Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang, MPAJ, MPPP, MS 1184, MS 1331