Tag Archives: Persons with Disabilities Act 2008

Deadly Obstacle Course At Gurney Drive

Casuarina tree outside Restoran Khaleel blocking almost the entire sidewalk at Gurney Drive
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.

Kerb ramp and lamp post blocking sidewalk at Gurney Drive
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.

Vehicle blocking access the kerb ramp at Gurney Drive
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.

Phone booth in sidewalk at Gurney Drive
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.

Risking Life And Limb At Gurney Drive

Peter Tan at Gurney Drive
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.

Peter Tan at Gurney Drive
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.

Peter Tan at Gurney Drive
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.

Peter Tan at Gurney Drive
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.

Time to remove all reservations and sign the Optional Protocols: The Malaysian Bar – July 8, 2010

The Malaysian Bar
Press Release: Time to remove all reservations and sign the Optional Protocols

Thursday, 08 July 2010 03:11pm
The Malaysian Bar welcomes the Government’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Alongside Malaysia’s well-publicised ratification, the Government has nonetheless taken reservations to Article 3 on general principles, Article 5 on equality and non-discrimination, Article 15 on freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Article 18 on liberty of movement and nationality, and Article 30 on participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.

This means that the Malaysian Government does not fully subscribe to the fundamental principles that persons with disabilities should enjoy such equality, non-discrimination, freedom or liberty, or to fully participate in culture, recreation, leisure and sport. This makes for a hollow ratification since such reservations take away from fundamental principles that underpin CRPD.

These kinds of reservations are consistent with the reservations made to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Malaysia acceded to in 1995. Despite withdrawing reservations to Articles 1, 13 and 15 of CRC, Malaysia still has five reservations in place. These are to Article 2 on non-discrimination; Article 7 on name and nationality; Article 14 on freedom of thought, conscience and religion; Article 28(1)(a) on free and compulsory education at primary level; and Article 37 on torture and deprivation of liberty. This indicates that the Malaysian Government still takes the view that children can be discriminated against, have no right to a name or nationality, have no freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and staggeringly, should not be free from torture and deprivation of liberty.

The Malaysian Bar also welcome the Government’s withdrawal of reservations to Articles 5(a), 7(b) and 16(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). While noteworthy strides have been made in terms of efforts to eliminate discrimination against women, Malaysia also still has five reservations in place with respect to CEDAW. These deal with equal rights for women to pass their nationality to their children (Article 9(2)); equal rights to enter into marriage (Article 16(1)(a)); equal rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution (Article 16(1)(c)); equal rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children (Article 16(1)(f)); and the same personal rights in a marriage, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation (Article 16(1)(g)).

In addition to these reservations, the Malaysian Government has still not signed or ratified any of the Optional Protocols to CRPD, CRC or CEDAW. These Optional Protocols grant specific rights to the citizens/residents of a country to refer their government to the international supervisory committee for non-compliance with each of these conventions. At present, although Malaysia is a State Party to these conventions, Malaysians cannot hold the Government accountable if it does not honour or comply with their provisions.

Similarly, the Persons With Disabilities Act 2008, which supposedly implemented the provisions of CRPD and which came into force in July 2008, does not provide for any form of punishment or remedy for breaches. It remains to be seen how the Malaysian Government will ensure that provisions of that Act are implemented. The Act also does not ensure that the persons with disabilities are not discriminated against, e.g. in education and employment opportunities.

The ratification of CRPD, and the withdrawal of some of the reservations to CRC and CEDAW, are all positive steps. However, more can, and should, be done.

We call on the Malaysian Government to give full effect to its international obligations by removing all remaining reservations, and by signing all three Optional Protocols. It should also expand the scope of the existing Child Act 2001 and Persons With Disabilities Act 2008 to comprehensively cover all areas of CRC and CRPD respectively. Currently, many of the provisions of CRC and CRPD have been left out of the enabling Malaysian legislation.

Finally, to show that it is fully transparent and accountable to the rakyat, we call on the Malaysian Government to insert provisions in all enabling legislation to allow the Malaysian Government to be challenged in Malaysian courts for non-compliance with its full obligations under CRPD, CRC and CEDAW. In particular, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Malaysian Government should do no less.

Lim Chee Wee
Vice-President
Malaysian Bar

8 July 2010