MPAJ Launches Guidelines For Accessible Facilities

Garis Panduan OKU Bagi Mengemukakan Pelan (Perlaksanaan Pelan Berasingan)

In conjunction with its Hari Kesedaran dan Simulasi OKU last Thursday, Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya also launched the Garis Panduan Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) Bagi Mengemukakan Pelan (Perlaksanaan Pelan Berasingan). Translated it means Guidelines for Plan Submission for Disabled People (Implementation of Separate Plan). In my opinion, it should have instead read as: Garis Panduan Bagi Mengemukakan Kemudahan OKU or Guidelines on Facilities for Disabled People.

That aside, I am glad that disabled people have come to this stage in our advocacy for accessible facilities in the Ampang Jaya municipality. This is a very positive step for many of us who have been looking forward to such facilities. The guidelines have a checklist and specifications on ramps, pathways and corridors, stairs, doors and entrances, elevators, toilets, lobby and car parking spaces.

The most important aspect of this implementation is the requirement for the submission of a separate plan for accessible facilities. This is to ensure that the plans comply with Malaysian Standard MS 1184 before they are approved. This guideline left out Malaysian Standard MS 1183: Part 8: 1990: Specifications for Fire Precautions in the Design and Construction of Buildings Part 8: Code of Practice for Means of Escape for Disabled People which I feel should have been included.

Teratai ADUN Jenice Lee, MPAJ Council Member Chan Su Sann and MPAJ Jabatan Belia dan Masyarakat Officer Noryani Roslan have been instrumental in pushing this matter up to this stage. Nevertheless, I will raise a few points regarding the guideline as I feel that the requirements are not comprehensive or specific enough. All said, I am happy to see progress in this matter although the moving is slow from the first time I lodged a complaint with MPAJ in 2006.

Importance Of Access Audit In Malaysia

Access audit training in Malaysia
Photo by Wuan.

The Persatuan Orang-Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia (POCAM) through its Accessibility Committee headed by Elizabeth Ang organised an Access Audit Training for members of the association. The training was conducted by Naziaty Yaacob. She is the senior lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Malaya, and is very experienced in accessibility issues in the built environment.

I have been advocating for an accessible built environment and the Malaysian Standard MS 1184 in this blog for a while now but have never really gone into the details that go into making the infrastructure fully accessible. After the training, I realised that there were many issues that I have overlooked, especially the intrinsic details that makes a difference between endangering the lives and making public facilities safe.

Access audit training in Malaysia
Photo by Wuan.

The training was held at the Institut Latihan Majlis Kebajikan dan Pembangunan Masyarakat Kebangsaan Malaysia (MAKPEM) in Sentul. I have stayed there a once and had thought that the building was a good accessible model to duplicate as trainings for disabled people were often conducted there. It was only after the access audit exercise that we discovered a number of the facilities do not conform to the Malaysian Standard MS 1183 and MS 1184.

Accessibility is not only about ramps and toilets for wheelchair users. It is also not exclusively for disabled people. Society in general benefits from such facilities as they are safe and convenient to use. Take for example the staircase. Nosing with contrasting colour is important for indicating the edge of the steps. Wuan and I personally witnessed an elderly man falling down outside Metrojaya Bukit Bintang. He lost his footing walking unaware down an unmarked step. Fortunately he did not suffer any injury.

Access audit training in Malaysia
Photo by Wuan.

Access auditing is important in identifying barriers in the infrastructure that needs to be rectified. This will ensure that everyone has equitable use of public facilities. Malaysia still has a long way to go in this aspect. Most public buildings do not fulfil the requirements of the code of practice. This includes essential government facilities. Accessibility in the built environment is one of the two core issues affecting disabled people that has not been given due attention. The other is public transport.

The local authorities are the biggest culprit in this deplorable state of affairs as they have never seriously enforced By-Law 34A of the Uniform Building By-Law (UBBL 34A) requiring that buildings provide access for disabled people. The UBBL 34A has been in force since the 1990s. Fifteen years on, many new buildings still do not conform to MS 1184. As long as the various levels of government is not serious in resolving accessibility issues, disabled people in Malaysia will continue to be marginalized.

Circle Of Mobility For Disabled People

2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation
Panel Discussion 2 – Barrier-Free Built-Environment and Universal Design
(L-R) Puan Khairiah Talha, Mr Patrick Ang, Cik Khairul Nisa bt. Haron, Cik Naziaty Yaacob (Chairperson), Peter Tan, Puan Ch’ng Gaik Bee @ Dalilah Bee Abdullah and Puan Tan Choo Lan.
Photo by Wuan.

My first presentation at the panel session for special interest groups of the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation at Pusat Latihan Perindustrian and Pemulihan Bangi (PLPP) was titled “Inclusive Environment in Malaysia: From the Perspective of a Wheelchair User.” The main point of the entire presentation is the “Circle of Mobility for Disabled People.”

Circle of Mobility for Disabled People
Circle of Mobility for Disabled People

The concept is very simple. The circle represents the journey from the point of origin to the destination and then from the final destination back to home. The journey includes the built environment which is represented by the line and public transport. The entire journey must be seamless. Any break in between may cause the disabled person to be stranded and unable to complete the journey.

Peter Tan speaking at the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation
Peter Tan speaking at the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation.
Photo by Wuan.

In Malaysia, the circle is broken in many places. The moment a disabled person gets out from the house, he will be faced with barriers in the built environment. These includes walkways without ramps, walkways littered with street furniture and other obstructions. Public transport is totally inaccessible. That is the reason why many wheelchair users are stuck at home and unable to go out.

The solutions are very simple actually. The government, be they federal, state or local, have the resources and means to resolve this issue. They must also take the blame for allowing this problem to fester until now. The four points for the solution that I presented were:

  1. Adopt Universal Design in all future infrastructural developments
  2. Enforce UBBL 34A and incorporate MS1331 into relevant legislation
  3. Audit Access officers in local governments to implement and enforce UBBL 34A
  4. Establish a time-frame to make Malaysia accessible to all

This is the abstract for my presentation:

Inclusive Environment In Malaysia:
From The Perspective Of A Wheelchair User

Two important factors determine whether a disabled person becomes home-bound or live a full life outside. One is public transport, the other the built environment. One cannot exist without the other. Neither exists in Malaysia. Some may argue that parts of the built environment have become accessible in recent years. This is true to a certain extent. However, the lack of interconnectivity makes these pockets of accessible heaven another unreachable speck in the horizon for many still. There is an urgent need to impress upon the people responsible for infrastructure that an accessible environment not only provides mobility. It empowers disabled people to become independent and improves their productivity overall. Furthermore, an inclusive environment benefits everyone. What is good for disabled people is good for everyone else. This is a win-win situation for all. This paper presents my experience as a wheelchair user with examples gleaned from the Independent Living movement in Japan.

Below were the topics that my fellow panelists presented:

The Construction Industry’s Role in Facilitating for Social Inclusion
Puan Tan Choo Lan
Bahagian Kawalan Bangunan, Jabatan Kerajaan Tempatan,
Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Malaysia

Barrier-Free City Kuala Lumpur
Puan Ch’ng Gaik Bee @ Dalilah Bee Abdullah
Architect, Architect’s Department,
Kuala Lumpur City Hall

Barrier Free City Petaling Jaya
Cik Khairul Nisa bt. Haron
Assistant Director/Planner, Development Planning Department,
Petaling Jaya City Council, Selangor

Collaborating with the Local Authority in Achieving Barrier-free City, Singapore
Mr. Patrick Ang
Level Field Consultants

Do We Need Legislative Changes Before We Care?
Puan Khairiah Talha
Secretary General, Eastern Regional Organization for Planning and Human Settlements (EAROPH)