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Penang Water Garden Not Wheelchair-Friendly

July 8th, 2011 - Friday

The Ministry of Tourism Malaysia spent RM7mil on the expansion of the Penang Botanic Gardens. It was completed last year. Two controversial arches were built at a cost of RM150,000 at the Penang Water Garden located beside the car park and just outside the old garden gates. Those two arches were later demolished following public outroar that they were unsightly and does not blend into the landscape. One of the arches was said to be tilting. The ministry allocated another RM70,000 for the demolition works.

News report mentioned that Penang Water Garden houses a complex of seven ponds, that altogether, cover the size of half a football field. This part of the expansion costs RM1.5mil. The ponds were cultivated with giant Victoria amazonica water lilies, lotuses and water plants. The Penang Water Garden is said to be the largest water garden in Malaysia.

No way for wheelchair user to get up the kerb and to the ramp at Penang Water Garden
No way for wheelchair user to get up the kerb and to the ramp at Penang Water Garden.
Photo by Wuan.

The Water Garden consists of several levels. There were two gentle ramps connecting the different levels. What exasperated me was that there were no ramps for wheelchair users to go up the kerbs from the road. One would expect that the Ministry of Tourism, Department of Irrigation and Drainage and other agencies responsible for this project would have the mind to include proper accessible facilities for disabled people visiting the gardens.

Unfortunately, RM220,000 was frittered away in building and then demolishing the arches while access needs of disabled visitors were not given due consideration at all. This is most disappointing especially when the Penang Botanic Gardens is popular among Penangites and tourists alike, and also the fact that the Persons with Disabilities Act has been in force since 2008.


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The Suffering Of Disabled People In Najib’s 1Malaysia

November 21st, 2009 - Saturday

The Star in ‘Promote paralympics’, says Najib (November 20, 2009) reported Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as saying that the marginalisation of disabled people is prevalent.

“The marginalisation of persons with disabilities is prevalent and in many countries there are few sports opportunities available to them,” Najib added.

On a brighter note, he said there had been increasing support for the participation of persons with disabilities over the past 20 years.

In line with the 1Malaysia concept of “People First, Performance Now”, Najib said it was important to provide opportunities for people from all walks of life, regardless of race, culture and religion.

I am glad Najib realises that. I hope he also meant disabled people in Malaysia when he talked about marginalisation. Disabled people in Malaysia is one of the most marginalised groups in the country. Having been a wheelchair user for the past 25 years, I can say with certainty that the government is still neglecting the needs of disabled people after all these years, irrespective of what Najib said in his opening speech at the 14th International Paralym­pic Committee (IPC) Conference and General Assembly on Thursday.

Not every disabled person can be a paralympian. Neither do many want to be when our struggles with bread and butter issues are never ending. We cannot go to school to get an education. We cannot get gainful employment. We cannot even move around conveniently. Many disabled people have poor quality of life. Many are living in poverty. They have to depend on their family for sustenance and care. Opportunity is a foreign word to them. Excelling in sports is the least of our worries when we have so many more pressing matters to worry about.

Every now and then, the government will promise to resolve the problems of inaccessibility in the built environment and public transport. All these are just empty talk. Nothing has been done to address these issues seriously. Look at the street environment around you. Are these places safe for blind people and wheelchair users to traverse? Look at RapidKL. Three years after they promised to make their buses accessible, disabled people still cannot board the buses. Likewise Rapid Penang.

Disabled people have met with former Parlimentary Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun who is now the Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Deputy Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen who later became the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development and now the Minister of Tourism, former Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy and current Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat. Even the Prime Minister’s wife Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor mentioned about the plight of disabled people and public transport.

There were promises. There were excuses. And then there were more promises. Still, nothing happened. Disabled people advocating for accessible public transport and barrier-free environment is still being given the runaround. Dear Datuk Seri Najib, please show us where the increasing support for our participation in society is. My disabled friends and I still feel very neglected.

The Star Online
News
Home > News > Nation

Friday November 20, 2009
‘Promote paralympics’, says Najib

KUALA LUMPUR: Voluntary organisations, the corporate sector and disabled athletes should work together to promote the paralympic movement, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He said Malaysian sports leaders were playing significant roles in the Asean, Asian and world paralympic movement.
Sticking together: Hong Kong athlete Yu Chui Yee accompanying Sidkova Marketa from the Czech Republic at the opening of the 14th International Paralympic Committee general assembly and conference in Kuala Lumpur Thursday.

“This is in recognition of Malaysia’s capabilities in championing the paralympic movement,” he said.

Asked whether Malaysia would host the Paralympic Games, he said that if the country were to do so, it would have to be chosen for the main Olympic Games, “which is a tall order”.

“It will not happen in the foreseeable future. You have to be a strong sports nation, make an impact and be a force to be reckoned with at the global level to be considered,” he said at the opening of the 14th International Paralym­pic Committee general assembly and conference here yesterday.

The United Nations estimates that there are about 500 million persons with disabilities in the world, the majority in developing countries, he said.

“The marginalisation of persons with disabilities is prevalent and in many countries there are few sports opportunities available to them,” Najib added.

On a brighter note, he said there had been increasing support for the participation of persons with disabilities over the past 20 years.

In line with the 1Malaysia concept of “People First, Performance Now”, Najib said it was important to provide opportunities for people from all walks of life, regardless of race, culture and religion.


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Employment For Disabled People

July 28th, 2009 - Tuesday

The Star reported that the “Human Resources Ministry wants private sector employers to ensure that one percent of its workforce to be those with disabilities.” Easier said than done. Unless the issues of access to public transportation and the built environment is addressed, this will remain unachiveable.

Disabled people need both to connect them to other essential services such as education and employment. Without access to these two, disabled people do not have the mobility to go anywhere, including going to school and work. Without formal education, disabled people do not have the qualification and skills to be employable.

As I see it, the government is using the bottoms down approach in many disability issues. The private sector can allocate a 1% quota for their workforce for disabled people but without proper infrastructure to support the mobility and access, the quota will remain unfilled.

Truth be told, I am fed up with reading such announcements from the government every now and then. The ministers talk and talk and talk without seriously wanting to address the real issues faced by disabled people. In November 15, 2007, the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had called for disabled persons be given employment. Just last year, Datuk Dr. Ng Yen Yen who as the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development was reported as saying that “a task force is being set up to encourage more disabled people to work in the public sector.”

Has the then Prime Minister’s call been heeded? What has this task force announced by Datuk Dr. Ng achieved so far? Is this task force still in existence? Is the Ministry of Human Resource involved with this task force? What is being done to address the issues of accessibility to ensure that disabled people have equal opportunities to get an education to make them qualified for employment? What is the point of making available work opportunities when many disabled people do not have proper qualifications?

The head does not know what the tail is doing. So while the various ministries come out with idea after idea to get disabled people gainfully employed, the majority of disabled people are still stuck at home uneducated, unqualified and unemployed. I bet my bottom ringgit that a year or two from now, we will read of another minister announcing unfulfilled job quotas for disabled people.1Malaysia Boleh!

News
Home > News > Nation

Published: Tuesday July 28, 2009 MYT 1:38:00 PM
Proposal for the disabled to be 1% of private sector workforce

KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Resources Ministry wants private sector employers to ensure that one percent of its workforce to be those with disabilities.

Deputy Minister Datuk Maznah Mazlan said Tuesday that the proposal would be forwarded to the Cabinet soon.

She said that the Government was already hiring people with disabilities but said that even the public sector had yet to fulfil the one percent quota.

“Only the Welfare Department has a 1.8 percent employment of disabled people. Other departments need to increase their employment of people with disabilities,” she said.


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