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Monday December 4, 2006

Disabled face daily barriers


KUALA LUMPUR: “We want disabled-friendly vehicle, We cannot get into buses, We want barrier-free and accessible buses.” Scrawled on placards, these plaintive pleas represented some of the daily obstacles faced by wheelchair-bound people in getting around in public. 

Led by Damai Disabled Persons Association of Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan, the group of disabled people gathered at the KL Sentral bus stop, lobbying for facilities that are more sensitive to their needs. 

Besides demanding disabled-friendly buses, they also wanted disabled-friendly infrastructure such as wheelchair ramps at bus stops. 

NO RAMP: V. Puspanathan, 30, demonstrating the difficulty of getting out of a bus by dragging himself down the steps while struggling with his wheelchair.
The association’s president V. Murugeswaran said buses were one of the most important modes of public transport for the disabled, as most of them did not own a car and taxis were too expensive. 

He said they were disappointed with the public bus operator, RapidKL, which had failed to fulfil its promise to provide 100 disabled-friendly buses. 

“RapidKL bought new buses in September but we have yet to see one that is disabled-friendly,” Murugeswaran told reporters in conjunction with the International Day of Disabled Persons. 

“Without public transport, we lose out on a lot of opportunities such as jobs and education. 

“At this celebration, we want to show decision makers our daily obstacles but we do not want charity, we want to be independent,” he said. 

Barrier-free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) coordinator Christine Lee said they had sent a memorandum to RapidKL to explain the needs of the disabled. 

“Statistics have shown that the number of disabled people is rising due to accidents and old age. 

“Disabled-friendly facilities are accessible and safe for wheelchair-bound people, the elderly, young children as well as pregnant women,” she said. 

When contacted, RapidKL corporate communications division senior manager Katherine Chew said the 100 units of disabled-friendly buses would be delivered in batches from Europe soon. 

“We hope they will arrive by January,” she said.  

She also urged the disabled community to be patient, as changes could not be made overnight.  

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