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.

Disability Awareness Training At MPAJ

MPAJ Disability Awareness Training - MPAJ Council Member Chan Su Sann and MPAJ President Dato' Mohammad Bin Yacob
MPAJ Council Member Chan Su Sann and MPAJ President Dato’ Mohammad Bin Yacob beside her on wheelchairs before the simulation exercise.

Many government buildings in Malaysia are still inaccessible to disabled people. This is a crying shame as these buildings should be the first to comply with accessibility standards namely Malaysian Standard MS 1184: Code of Practice on Access for Disabled Persons to Public Buildings. The government should lead by example. If not how else are they going to enforce By-Law 34A of the Uniform Building By-Law (UBBL 34A) that requires all public buildings provide access to disabled people? It is ironic for the municipal government to penalize developers and building owners when their own premises are blatant examples of inaccessibility.

MPAJ Disability Awareness Training - Participants going up a ramp on wheelchairs
Participants going up a ramp on wheelchairs at MPAJ building.

The Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) took the first step today to make its administrative building compliant with MS 1184. The municipality organised Hari Kesedaran dan Simulasi OKU at Menara MPAJ in Pandan Indah. A simulation exercise was conducted by access audit facilitator Haslinda Hashim to show the top management of the municipality the problems faced by disabled people when they need to conduct business at the premises. Taking the lead in the exercise was its President Dato’ Mohammad Bin Yacob together with Council Members who went around on wheelchairs to use the ramps, toilet and counters.

MPAJ Disability Awareness Training - MPAJ President Dato' Mohammad Bin Yacob on wheelchair learning about issues faced by disabled people
MPAJ President Dato’ Mohammad Bin Yacob (right) on wheelchair learning about issues faced by wheelchair users at the MPAJ building.

The first barrier they encountered was the rather steep ramp leading from the car park to the lobby. All of them had difficulty pushing themselves up. The President personally tested the toilet and also discovered that there was insufficient space to manoeuvre inside. At the payment counters section, the glass doors were difficult to open. Both door had to be opened to accommodate the entrance and exit of the wheelchairs. However, there was a low counter where disabled persons and senior citizens do not have to get a queue numbers to be served.

MPAJ Disability Awareness Training - Reporters crowding around the toilet to photograph MPAJ President Dato' Mohammad Bin Yacob testing out the accessible toilet
Reporters crowding around the toilet to photograph MPAJ President Dato’ Mohammad Bin Yacob testing out the accessible toilet.

Over lunch, I had the opportunity to have a few words with the President. I intimated to him that while the initiative by MPAJ to make the building accessible is a good move, there must be connectivity to the place. A fully accessible building is useless to disabled people if we are unable to get there due to the barriers in the street environment and public transport. The matter of accessibility must be viewed in totality instead of being done on a piecemeal basis.

MPAJ Disability Awareness Training - MPAJ President Dato' Mohammad Bin Yacob giving a speech at the end of the training
MPAJ President Dato’ Mohammad Bin Yacob giving a speech at the end of the training and instructed the relevant departments to rectify the problems regarding accessible facilities at MPAJ building.

Incidentally, the day’s event coincided with the MPAJ’s full council meeting, I also had the opportunity to discuss briefly regarding the same matters with Teratai ADUN Jenice Lee and Council Member Chan Su Sann. As I see it, there certainly is progress from the day a few friends and I met with Jenice after the general election in 2008 to present to her our case to her. Nevertheless, the going is extremely slow. I wonder if I will live to see the day when I can move around in the Klang Valley and Penang independently like what I experienced in Tokyo.

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.