When Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) came to remove the road hump on 16th January, I was away at Bandar Baru Sentul for the Regional Asia Pacific Training of Trainers on Disability Equality Training workshop. Otherwise, I would have loved to see it being removed. Jamali Othman, the MPAJ engineer was on site to oversee the demolition work together with Gary Lim, Head of Legal Bureau for MCA Pandan Division, and his assistant Winnie.
MPAJ officers using the backhoe to scrape away the road hump.
Image courtesy of Gary Lim.
Gary and Winnie had been pursuing the matter with MPAJ on our behalf after Dorothy Cheong, the ahli majlis for our zone, did little to help us resolve the issue. As part of our campaign, we had sought legal advice as another option which we are glad we did not have to resort to. With help from friends we got the story published in Berita Harian and The Star. At the same time, as residents whose houses faced the hump, we sent a complaint to the Yang DiPertua MPAJ via email, outlining our objections on 28th October 2012. Jamali came to see us on 8th November 2012 to discuss a solution to the matter.
Another shot of the removal of the hump by MPAJ.
Image courtesy of Gary Lim.
We initally approached Jenice Lee, the ADUN for Teratai, after the hump was built. She had asked Dorothy to look into the matter. Dorothy kept insisting that the hump was built at the request of a majority of ten residents along the road. She also said “I believe people of your situation would more than welcome it because it will practically slow down vehicles from speeding and thus safety is the priority in the mind of these residents in your neighbourhood.”
The neighbours with Jamali Othman (3rd from left), Winnie (4th from left) and Gary Lim(right).
Image courtesy of Gary Lim.
My lengthy explanation to her and Jenice that the hump is a barrier to my mobility and a hazard to my safety fell on deaf ears. Jenice then suggested a meeting with the other residents to sort this out. We unanimously objected because when the hump was built outside our houses, we were never consulted first. Jenice even mentioned that “From the picture I received, the hump is built in between your house and your neighbour.” It was clear how little she understood what our complaints were all about.
In our letter to the Yang DiPertua, we pointed out that other residents were invited to sign a petition for the road hump twelve days after it was built, contrary to what Dorothy told me in her second email that MPAJ had received ten requests to install the road hump from residents in July 2012. Up till today, I still cannot understand why there was a need to get residents to sign the petition when a request by ten residents had already been submitted and approved by MPAJ earlier.
Dorothy was reported in The Star to have said, “We can’t entertain one person’s complaint as we want to help everyone.” Did she mean to say that my safety concerns are irrelevant? As a disabled person, I do not have the right to object to facilities that will endanger me, especially when it is right outside my house? She also obviously left out the fact that my neighbour had gone to her office to make a complaint and sought her assistance on this matter as well.
Anyway, I am glad this is all over now. Many people had a hand in helping us resolve this matter in one way or another. Thanks to Gary Lim and Winnie for their relentless pursuit to have the hump removed; Pierce Wong who connected me to Datuk Wong Sai Wan to get the news published in The Star; Paul Choo who came out with the caricature to highlight the issue; Edmund Bon, Khor Boon How and team for the legal advice; and to everyone who has supported us. All your effort came to fruition. Thank you.
Tags: ADUN Teratai, disabled people Malaysia, Dorothy Cheong, Edmund Bon, Gary Lim, Jamali b Othman, Jenice Lee, Khor Boon How, Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya, MCA Pandan Division Head of Legal Bureau, MPAJ, Pierce Wong, road hump, wheelchair user Malaysia, Wong Sai Wan, Yang Dipertua Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya
It is difficult to get disabled people to come together to advocate on a common cause. Logistics is always a big problem due to the inaccessible public transport system. Apathy and complacency are among the other reasons.
We do come together nonetheless to work on various issues affecting the community, especially on access to public transport and buildings. There is a consensus that these advocacy activities must be inclusive of all disabled people irrespective of their impairments.
At the same time, other people who may be affected, like senior citizens, pregnant women and adults with prams, are also included. This is the kind of advocacy that I support, disabled people working towards a society that is truly inclusive of all.
I am appalled that some disabled drivers are asking for priority to use accessible parking over vehicles with disabled passengers. Their reasoning is that they need the extra space to unload and load their wheelchairs and that they are alone.
These disabled drivers have not taken into consideration the inconvenience such an “awareness campaign” will cause to the disabled passengers and their assistants who usually double-up as drivers too.
Wheelchairs for disabled passengers require as much space for loading and unloading as those for disabled drivers. Many disabled people do not drive due to the severity of their impairments. Having an assistant does not make it any easier. In fact, it is a heavy burden for the assistant who has to drive, park the vehicle, unload the wheelchair and help the disabled person transfer.
Distributing flyers asking that priority be given to disabled drivers and discouraging vehicles with disabled passengers from using accessible parking under the guise of creating awareness will only create more confusion as to who are entitled to those parking.
Disappointingly, some car parks already have such a policy in place. It may even move more car park managers to deny vehicles with disabled passengers from using accessible parking as “disabled people are asking for this so must be the right thing to do.”
Signboard at 1 Utama indicating accessible parking only for disabled drivers.
Photo courtesy of Mdm. Cheah Yu Shih.
Accessible parking spaces are there for a purpose. They are wider than regular parking spaces. The extra space allows wheelchair users to get in and out of the vehicles safely and conveniently, irrespective whether they are the driver or passenger.
Disabled passengers and assistants who are “discouraged” from using the accessible parking may risk getting hit by passing vehicles if they have to do transferring by the access way because once the vehicle is parked in a regular space, the wheelchair user will have problem getting out or back into the car. The same may happen to disabled drivers.
Campaigning for priority use of accessible facilities goes against the spirit of equality and inclusion. Therefore, instead of asking for priority for disabled drivers, disabled people should work together to demand for more parking spaces.
I am also disappointed to note that disabled people who are advocating for equality in using the MBPJ accessible community van service are throwing their support behind the call to give priority to use accessible parking to disabled drivers. I have blogged about this van service in Transit OKU Should Be For All Wheelchair Users In PJ.
These disabled people own cars but still use the van service. I have no quarrel with this. Disabled people have the choice and are entitled to this service. They can choose to drive or they can choose to use the van service. It must also be noted that when these disabled drivers choose to use the van service, they may be depriving other non-driving disabled people from using it.
What is most appalling is the double standard that these people are practicing. To them, equality is only meaningful if they can get something out of it. Otherwise, they will push for privileges and priority to use facilities meant for all disabled people.
In that case, why should other disabled people who are marginalised by these “awareness campaigns” support advocacy activities for facilities that they will never get to use? That is the main reason why the disability movement in Malaysia is weak. Some people will only participate if they can get something out of it instead of working together for the good of the community as a whole.
I have said it then and I will say it here again. In advocating for our rights, we should not deny others theirs. This is one of the basic principles disability-rights advocates must adhere to. We should not, at any time, segregate disabled people into classes, be it social, financial, colour or creed. We have been fighting against exclusion for a long time. We know all too well the pain of being marginalized. Therefore it is contradictory to exclude one of our own based on discriminatory criteria.
I am disappointed that some Democratic Action Party (DAP) members are not sensitive to the rights of disabled people to an inclusive and barrier-free society despite the fact that DAP national chairman Karpal Singh has been a wheelchair user for the past 7 years.
Shame on MPAJ councillor Dorothy Cheong who ignored my objections against the road hump that was built right outside my house. It is still there even after a lengthy explanation on the risks that it poses to me as a wheelchair user.
It is even more disappointing that ADUN Teratai Jenice Lee came to her defence when I chided Dorothy for her patronising attitude. The councillor had said that “I believe people of your situation would more than welcome it because it will practically slow down vehicles from speeding and thus safety is the priority in the mind of these residents in your neighbourhood.”
Am I stupid or what? Would I object to something that is truly for my safety? The fact is that the hump itself is a barrier and a danger to my safety as a disabled person. It may cause my wheelchair to tip backward when I ascending or cause me to fall forward when descending. Because of this safety concern, I have been stuck on my side of the road for the past three months.
Her talking down to me like I didn’t know what I was talking about is unbecoming to her position as a councillor and facilitator between the residents and MPAJ. What irked me most was that as a representative of the people, she had not even bothered to meet me in person to understand my concerns. Instead, she brushed my complaints off just like that.
She was also reported by The Star to have said that “We can’t entertain one person’s complaint as we want to help everyone.” So, the complaints of people in the minority can simply be ignored because we are inconsequential in numbers? Going by that logic, should the government of the day disregard the interests of all minority groups in the country?
I have no use for a councillor with such a narrow perspective of issues representing me in MPAJ. I earnestly hope that this is not the stand of DAP, the political party she represents. Otherwise, disabled people and other minority groups will have a difficult time advocating for our rights should Pakatan Rakyat come to power in the next general election. For that matter, I cannot emphasise enough that such irresponsible behaviour should not be the stand of any political party.
Tags: ADUN Teratai, Democratic Action Party Malaysia, disabled people Malaysia, Dorothy Cheong, Jenice Lee, Karpal Singh, Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya, OKU, orang kurang upaya, Pandan Perdana, rights of disabled people, road hump, wheelchair user Malaysia