Penang – Different Government Same Shit For Disabled People

Abuse of accessible parking outside the Catholic Information Centre in Penang

When the DAP took over Penang with its allies in the Pakatan Rakyat, I had great hope that things would change for the better for disabled people in my home state where accessibility is concerned. After nine months of governing the state, it is evident that my optimism was misplaced. The picture above taken on November 24, 2008 speaks volume of my despair.

I use very simple yardsticks to determine accessibility of a particular place. First is the inclusion of usable ramps. Second is the functionality of accessible toilets. Third is the provision of accessible parking spaces. These are the basic facilities that will determine whether disabled people can perform independently outside their homes or otherwise.

The two parking spaces for disabled people were put up in 2005 when a stretch of Upper Penang Road was renovated. The many times that I drove pass the Catholic Information Centre in recent months, the two parking spaces were usually occupied by four cars – assumably neither driven by disabled people nor carrying disabled passengers as evident by the close proximity of the cars.

When a simple thing like enforcement on existing facilities is not even carried out, dare I hope that the requirements in the Uniform Building By-Law 34A (UBBL 34A) be imposed on all existing and new public buildings? The government of Penang under Pakatan Rakyat is as disappointing as when the state was under Barisan Nasional when it comes to resolving disability issues. Apa macam Lim Guan Eng?

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)

Malaysia Signs The Convention On The Rights of Persons With Disabilities

Thanks to Lilei Chow who forwarded news articles on Malaysia becoming the latest signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Malaysia signed the convention on April 8, 2008. This is a milestone in the disability movement in our country.

However, the same news articles did not mention if Malaysia also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and whether Malaysia had reservations towards some of the articles in the CRPD. The Optional Protocol enables individuals whose rights are violated to seek redress from the Committee of Persons with Disabilities after exhausting all the remedies of national laws.

The United Nations Enable page on Convention and Protocol Signatories and Ratification listed Malaysia as having only signed the Convention. The government should show its full commitment by also signing the Protocol and at the same time ratify the Convention soonest possible.

At the same time, the government should also consider drawing up an anti-discrimination law to protect the rights of disabled people. The Persons With Disabilities Bill is non-punitive and therefore toothless. The Uniform Building By-Law 34-A (UBBL 34A) under the Streets, Drainage and Buildings Act must also be strictly enforced to ensure that all public buildings are fully accessible. It is high time the By-Law includes external environment as it currently does not require that those places be accessible to disabled people.

The UBBL 34A is a good example of how the rights of disabled people are not not being protected by a piece of legislation that has been in existence since the mid-90s. The government has had fifteen years to do what is required in the By-Law but they have done little. Therefore I wonder how the Persons with Disabilitie Bill will be any different when past laws have proven otherwise.

Nevertheless, having signed the Convention, the government should now get down to implementing the policies on disabilities to ensure that disabled people are accorded their equal and rightful place in society. Policies that discriminates should be removed with immediate effect. Infrastructure in the forms of public transport and built environment should be made accessible to all.

The government can begin by ensuring that RapidKL, Rapid Penang, Star LRT and all government facilities are accessible to disabled people within a fixed time frame. The other issues that must be looked into are education, employment and the provision of independent living support to people with severe disabilities. Are we up to it? Time will tell. Until then, I am reservedly optimistic. I have experienced too many empty promises and poorly enforced legislation to believe that things will change for the better any time soon.

The Star Online
Thursday April 10, 2008
Malaysia signs UN convention on disabled

NEW YORK: Malaysia has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations headquarters here.

The Malaysian Government was represented by Datuk Faizah Mohd Tahir, Secretary General of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, said a statement issued by her entourage.

The signing was witnessed by Annebeth Rosenboom, chief of the treaty section at the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs, Malaysia Consular at New York Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin, and National Population and Family Development director Aminah Abdul Rahman.

The Convention entitles the disabled to the full enjoyment of all human rights and ensures full and effective participation as well as inclusion in society, on an equal basis with others.

The eight general principles of the Convention are:

* Respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy; * Non-discrimination; * Full and effective participation and inclusion in society; * Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; * Equality of opportunity; * Accessibility; * Gender equality and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities; and * Respect for the rights of children with disabilities to develop and preserve their identities.

The signing shows the Government’s concern and commitment following the formulation of the Policy on Persons with Disabilities and its Plan of Action, the Persons with Disabilities Act 2007 and the recent appointment of a disabled person as a senator, the statement said.

April 09, 2008 18:44 PM

Malaysia Signs UN Treaty On Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 (Bernama) — Malaysia is now a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty that upholds and safeguards the rights of people with disabilities to be independent and to live with dignity and respect.

Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Faizah Mohd Tahir signed the treaty for Malaysia at a ceremony held at the United Nations’s (UN) headquarters in New York Tuesday.

According to a statement from the ministry, the signing of the convention was witnessed by UN’s Office of Legal Affairs’ Chief of Treaty Section Annebeth Rosenboom, Malaysia’s Counsellor in New York Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin and Director of National Population and Family Development Aminah Abdul Rahman.

The long-awaited convention underlines eight general principles which include respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy, non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference, and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.

The statement said the signing of the convention showed the government’s concern and commitment following the formulation of the Policy on Persons with Disabilities and its plan of action.


Related entries:
The Malaysian Perspective On The Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities
Persons With Disabilities Bill 2007 – All Bark And No Bite