This morning, I had the privilege of previewing the newly upgraded walkways at Upper Penang Road with Tan Kuan Aw, Deputy President of Society of Disabled Persons Penang, Laurence Loh, an acclaimed architect whose firm designed the walkways and other ancillary amenities, and officers from the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP). We were invited to provide feedback on its accessibility from our point of view.
The walkabout began from outside Eastern & Oriental Hotel. The walkways have been designed and constructed with the physically disabled and visually impaired in mind. There are yellow studded tiles and beeping traffic lights to guide the blind. Gentle gradients up the walkways from the road allowed effortless wheelchair navigation.
Along way, Laurence had to ask some trishaw men to remove their trishaws that were parked halfway up the walkway and were blocking our path. I foresee that a lot of education is needed in this aspect because many people do not understand the inconvenience they are causing to people like us.
Outside the Catholic Information Service two extra-wide parking bays were specially allocated for vehicles of physically disabled drivers. In Penang where parking spots are difficult to come by, this is a refreshing change. Hopefully, people who are not entitled to use these bays do not abuse this privilege reserved for those who need to use it.
The walkabout ended at the traffic island at the junction of Penang Road and Chulia Street. Several tablets were put up there to explain the history of the surrounding areas. This is a nice touch that will enlighten tourists and locals alike on why Chulia Street is also known as Gu Gandang in Chinese and that once upon a time Penang had trams running on its street among others.
Generally, I could traverse the length of Upper Penang Road with little difficulty except for the haphazardly parked trishaws and motorcycles on certain parts of the walkways. My other complaint is that some of the iron grill manhole covers are potential wheelchair traps. Other than that I am satisfied with the thought that had gone into making this part of Penang Road accessible to people with disabilities. I applaud the MPPP and Laurence for incorporating disability-friendly features in the design. I would like to see similar blueprints adopted and adapted in walkways all over Penang to enable the disabled community some degree of independence on our days out.
The Star has an article here.