Can Political Change Translate To New Hope For Disabled People?

Now we have four state governments in Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor that are not from the Barisan Nasional, apart from Kelantan that has been held by PAS for the last 18 years. What can the common people expect from this radical change that unexpectedly swept through the entire nation? What can disabled people expect from the Chief Minister of Penang, the Menteri Besars of Kedah, Perak and Selangor? What can disabled people expect from the local governments in terms of accessibility to the built environment and other services provided by these authorities?

In all sincerity, I fervently pray that disabled people will get a better deal from now on. Accessibility to the built environment still poses a major stumbling block to the mobility and independence of disabled people all over Malaysia. As much a we would like to become part of the community that we live in, many of us are still unable to get out from our homes safely because the surrounding areas are fraught with barriers and dangers.

These include walkways without functional ramps for wheelchair users and tactile indicators for the blind. In addition to that, street furniture such as lampposts, signboards and various utility boxes are indiscriminately positioned along the walkways. Some walkways have uncovered manholes. These not only obstruct the passage but poses potential risk of injury to disabled people but to non-disabled people as well.

Oftentimes, by building ramps and placing the wheelchair logo to the doors of toilets, these places are said to be accessible and “disabled-friendly.” This is a very misleading notion. I have encountered ramps that are too steep, too slippery, too long or do not have railings. Such ramps are not functional and are dangerous. I have fallen while using a few. A spacious toilet or one with the wheelchair logo does not necessarily make it suitable for wheelchair users. Grabs bars, toilet bowls, sinks, water hose and even the door itself must be of a certain height and feature for them to be functional

There are standards for such facilities. The Standards & Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) has published the Malaysian Standard 1184 (MS 1184) and Malaysian Standard 1331 (MS 1331) specifically for this purpose. MS 1184 pertains to access for disabled persons to public buildings while MS 1331 is on access outside buildings. The code of practice for these two standards is often ignored. Builders are often left to do their own interpretation of such facilities. Interpretation of such facilities from the viewpoint of non-disabled persons or persons who have no understanding of disability most times render such facilities unusable.

The local governments such as the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) and Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) are responsible in ensuring that those standards are adhered to in public buildings and public amenities. Little has been done to by these authorities with regards to that. A cursory survey of the areas under these two authorities provides ample proof of that fact. My letters to the MPAJ President complaining of dangerous and inaccessible walkways never got a reply. This is another proof that problems of disabled people pertaining to accessibility in the built environment are often ignored and forgotten.

Therefore it is with great hope that with the change in political climate, issues faced by disabled people with regards to accessibility will be given more attention. The new state governments and local authorities have the means to resolve this matter if they are serious about it. One of the ways is to mainstream disability – to accept that disability is society’s problems rather than that of a minority of individuals. Disabled people must be involved in all levels of decision making on matters that affect them. I hope the new powers that be seriously take note of this. We have been ignored and marginalised for far too long. The current development has given us some glimmer of optimism. I hope I am right about this.

What Now After The General Election?

Sleep. Lots of it. I am totally pooped out. Cross country driving this time was exciting but exhausting as well. I can feel what the speakers for the countless ceramahs felt running from one venue to another to convince voters to give them their votes. I am sure the incoming Members of Parliaments and State Assemblymen are as worn out as me after thirteen days of non-stop day and night campaigning all over the country.

Many will also have to nurse their hoarse voices back to good health. After that, they should get down to serious work entrusted to them by the people. Yang Berhormats, please remember your promises to the people. Work on it. Do that with sincerity. Here is wishing newly elected Yang Berhormats all the best in serving the people and the nation.

For the rest of us, life goes on. The excitement of Malaysia’s largest carnival will soon die off. We will go back to our old dreary routines to earn enough to make ends meet. But lets continue to actively engage our elected Parliamentarians and State Assemblymen on issues that affect our rights and that of the nation. It is through such dialogues that we can build a better Malaysia for everyone.

Malaysia’s 12th General Election: The People Have Spoken

Hear, hear! The message is loud and clear. Listen and listen well! With both ears please this time. We, the People have spoken. Heed our calls. What we desired as a nation that you did not fulfill, we are now telling you through the ballot. Let this be the forewarning to our representatives in the Parliament and state assemblies that we do not take lightly to our aspirations being cast aside and ignored.

The same warning goes out to the victors of this general election. Always remember that the power lies in the hands of the People, not you the representatives of the People. Whatever power that you have comes from the People. You now have five years to prove your worth and fulfil all that you have promised to do for the benefit of the People. Use this opportunity well and we may reward you with another term.

We, The People of Malaysia, have spoken! Well done. Now, lets bury the hatchet, whatever our political affiliations are. Lets reconcile to continue building our beloved nation, our motherland, according to our aspirations. We have proven that democracy is alive and kicking in Malaysia and that we, the People, hold the power to decide on the destiny of our nation. We have done it today. Hidup Rakyat! Hidup Demokrasi! Hidup Malaysia!