PETALING JAYA: Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has called for a “barrier-free” environment to cater to the needs of the disabled community.
She said the ministry would rigorously defend the rights of the disabled.
“The requests for more disabled-friendly public transport facilities should not be taken lightly,” she said in a statement.
“All authorities involved in the handling and provision of, among other things, public transport, recreational parks and buildings must take into account the needs of all members of society, including the disabled.
“It is time that a ‘barrier-free’ environment be realised for the benefit of the whole of society.”
Shahrizat added that the ministry held talks with the Housing and Local Government Ministry in July to discuss the efforts taken to provide access and mobility for the disabled.
She added that a joint working paper between the two ministries was submitted during the national council meeting for local government, chaired by the Prime Minister, on Sept 25.
Finally, I have found some time to settle the one issue that has been foremost in my mind recently – the complaint letter to Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ). That letter was addressed to the President of the Municipal Council and copied to the Menteri Besar of Selangor, Setiausaha Sulit Kanan to the Menteri Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan, Setiausaha Sulit Kanan to the Menteri Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga dan Masyarakat, Ketua Pengarah Kebajikan Masyarakat, Yap Soo Sun, the ADUN for this area and the President of the Persatuan Orang-Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia (Society of the Orthopaedically Handicapped Malaysia).
Wuan took some photographs of the offending lamppost to illustrate how impossible it was for me to manoeuvre around the lamppost by myself. With some assistance from her, it can be done but that poses an apparent danger as evident from the nasty fall that happened to us the other evening. From the last photograph, we can see how close the vehicle was to the walkway. Picture the time that I lay sprawled on the road. I was in the path of oncoming vehicles. I could have been killed. That could have happened to Wuan as well.
The lack of accessible walkways, together with the lack of accessible transport service, is one of the many reasons why we do not see many wheelchair users out and about in public places. In Tokyo, it was not unusual to see the severely disabled moving around in electric wheelchairs. It was also easy for wheelchair users to board the trains and buses there. As far as I know, Putra LRT is the only accessible public transport in Malaysia, and that was only after disabled persons staged demonstrations to demand for accessible facilities at the stations. It is an uphill battle for us all the way.
May 28, 2006
YB Presiden Via email and post
Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya
Jalan Pandan Utama
55100 Pandan Indah
INACCESSIBLE, DAMAGED AND OBSTRUCTED WALKWAYS AT PANDAN PERDANA A DANGER TO WHEELCHAIR USERS AND PEDESTRIANS
I reside at the address above. Several times a week, I patronise the shops at Jalan Perdana 4/5. I am a wheelchair user. I usually go together with my friend because I need her assistance with my wheelchair. We have two choices to go to the shops. One, I can either push myself on the busy road of Jalan Perdana 3/1 and risk being knocked over by a bus or a car. Two, to avoid that danger, my friend assists me by lifting my wheelchair onto the walkways. The walkways on both sides of Jalan Perdana 3/1 are not accessible. There are no kerb ramps to the walkways.
There is this lamppost at Jalan Perdana 3/1 (opposite the Jalan Perdana 4/5 shops) that stands right in the middle of the walkway. My friend always had difficulty manoeuvring my wheelchair around it because of the narrow space between the lamppost and the edge of the walkway.
While she was trying to manoeuvre my wheelchair around that particular lamppost on May 28, the front caster slipped off the edge of the walkway. We both lost balance and fell onto the road and were injured. All the time as I was lying helpless on the road, I worried that a bus may come and roll over us. Fortunately, three good Samaritans stopped their vehicles and helped me back onto the wheelchair.
The main reason we both fell off the walkway was because of the obstruction caused by the lamppost. It does not make sense to plant a lamppost right in the middle of the walkway. Additionally, many stretches of the walkways are damaged by the indiscriminate parking of buses, lorries and cars. These vehicles also cause obstructions that prevent pedestrians from using the walkways. This endangers our lives as we have no choice but to walk on the road.
As a pedestrian who uses that stretch of walkway often, I respectfully demand that you remove that offending lamppost immediately to prevent similar accidents from happening again. I also request that you make walkways, not only at Pandan Perdana, but in all areas under your jurisdiction accessible by constructing kerb ramps to allow accessibility to wheelchair users, prams and the elderly.
At the same time, the damaged walkways should be repaired without delay. The uneven surface is a danger to all pedestrians. Owners of vehicles that park on these walkways must be penalised. What is the purpose of constructing walkways that cannot be used? Does the MPAJ expect me use my wheelchair on public roads? Does the MPAJ expect pedestrians to risk their lives by walking on the roads?
I would like to remind you that time and again, our government has stressed that Malaysia is a masyarakat penyayang. How can we be a masyarakat penyayang when simple things like public walkways are not accessible to disabled persons and the elderly? The government should take the lead in instituting a caring Malaysian society by addressing, among others, the environmental barriers that are preventing disabled persons from participating in the activities of the community at large. The MPAJ can show its caring aspects by tackling the matters that I have highlighted. Please act now on these blatant examples of a non-masyarakat penyayang and non-pedestrian-friendly walkways before lives are lost.
I look forward to a positive reply from you regarding the resolution of this issue soonest possible.