OF LATE, there is much excitement with the expansion of public transport in the Klang Valley. Unfortunately, some commuters lament about the lack of connectivity especially for disabled passengers.
It is a problem that has continued for years as people in Kuala Lumpur experience difficulty in getting access to public transportation, despite the city’s growth with the advent of the LRT, monorail and upcoming MRT.
The setbacks faced by the elderly, pregnant women, the wheelchair bound and visually impaired are still there despite our march towards developed status by 2020.
For wheelchair-bound individuals like Mohd Khairul Anwar, 31, it is not simply the lack of end-to-end connectivity, in terms of feeder buses, to and from public transportation hubs and stations.
It is the disjointed and irregular facilities around the cityscape, such as pavements and bus stops that are a hindrance for them to utilise public transport to go from one place to another.
Mohd Khairul who lives in the People’s Housing Project (PPR) in Taman Intan Baiduri flats in Kepong, has been immobile from chest downwards for the past six years. He finds going to the Cheras Rehabilitation Centre an expedition more than a straightforward, smooth-sailing journey.
“There are six blocks in my PPR and in my block alone, there are six people using wheelchairs, but there are no facilities for us in the PPR leading to the bus stop such as proper pavements with ramps.
“Because of that, I have to wheel myself on the main road from the flats all the way to the bus stop,” he said, braving the journey as vehicles zoomed pass him.
“The kerbs which are high prevent me from getting onto the sidewalks. There are no ramps so I am not able to get onto the sidewalk to get to the bus stop.
“In the end, I am forced to wait by the roadside for the bus to arrive; I have to wait in front so that the bus driver can spot me.”
He said it was vital to provide a continuous and covered walkway for wheelchair commuters.
“So far, only the Rapid KL buses have a mechanism that lowers the bus to reach the height of the kerb. However, for the past six months it stopped making trips to my area.
“The Setara Jaya bus also covers my area but it does not have facilities for me to board the bus; so my only choice is to book the Rapid Mobility vans,” he said, adding that mobility vans specifically provide door-to-door transportation for wheelchair users to hospitals but were limited and difficult to book.
Mohd Khairul’s father Gani Hashim, 61, has been taking care of him while juggling his job as a taxi driver to earn enough income to support the family.
“When there are no mobility vans available, I have to take him to the hospital in Cheras instead of paying for another taxi to drive him.
“I ferry him to and fro and it usually takes up a whole day so I have to forego wages for the day,” said Gani.
According to Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) past president Datuk Tan Pei Ing, universally accessible design guidelines by the Department of Standards Malaysia come under the Malaysian Standard (MS1184:2014).
These guidelines adopt international standards, which are periodically reviewed and governed by the Standards of Malaysia Act, 1996.
“The guidelines cover provisions for the inside of all public buildings as well as spaces leading to public buildings in a built environment.
“Considerations include designs for pathways to buildings, gradients for ramps and railings along the paths and tactile pavements that act as indicators for the visually impaired.
“But the problem is that pathways are not fit for everyday pedestrians let alone people with disabilities because the sidewalks are uneven, disjointed and continuously cut off as well as pothole-ridden.
“The only thing it does not have are provisions for are facilities at bus stops,” she said.
Tan said the implementation and enforcement, in terms of maintenance and following the set guidelines, are not up to mark as there was an urgent need for Government support on this matter.
Association of Women with Disabilities president Senator Bathmavathi Krishnan revealed there had been several engagements with non-governmental organisations for access auditors training carried out by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) with its employees.
“Access auditors inspect whether the facilities for a barrier-free environment in and around public buildings are done according to specifications.
“However, training access auditors alone is insufficient because there is no one body, agency or mechanism coordinating the implementation of building by-laws for areas such as walkways.
“A standardised module should be drawn up to train officers within local authorities so they can be given an accreditation as an access auditor.
“The accreditation can then be included in their job scope thus each officer will have to go back and implement and assess these guidelines in their respective areas.
Bathmavathi said one of the functions of local authorities were to enforce legislations while the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry needs to play a bigger role as a governing body.
She said there was an urgent need for awareness and greater understanding of people with disabilities to provide equal opportunities and create an inclusive society in our country.
DBKL was not available for comment on this issue.