Stay on right track to equality

(From right) Teoh Soon Tee, 41, and Looi Phaik Lee, 52, on wheelchair, seeking more information on the Penang Transport Master Plan from Yeap during the event at the Caring Society Complex.(Below, seated from left) National Council for the Blind Malaysia council member Wong Yoon Loong, Yap and Society of the Orthopaedically Handicapped Malaysia ex-president Dr Tiun Ling Ta at the review of the master plan.– Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star

OVER 40 disabled people gave the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) a good grilling during a review session for the handicapped.

Representing most of the NGOs for the disabled in Penang, they were keen to know where the future light rail transit (LRT) stations would be.

They were also especially concerned about the extent of the feeder bus networks serving the last mile, the degree of focus on public transportation on the mainland and why there was almost nothing planned for the Balik Pulau area.

SRS Consortium construction manager Julian Yeap said the best takeaway from the session was the frank sharing of experience in using public transportation.

“We benefited from hearing about, say, how the deaf feel when they use the LRT,” he said.

Several participants who are impaired in hearing and speech also shared how discomforting it can be when the automated ticketing machine at an LRT station beeps, or says something, but the user is deaf and the display screen does not reflect the audio output.

It is also bad when a train’s public announcement system declares the train’s arrival at a particular station and there are no visual displays in the train to keep the deaf notified as well.

To give a chance for the hearing and speech impaired to participate in the PTMP’s review at the Caring Society Complex yesterday, volunteers from the Penang Deaf Association sat on stage and translated what everyone was saying into sign language.

Penang Accessibility Action Group chairman Yap Soo Huey, who is also Pulau Tikus assemblyman, said there were 28,353 registered disabled persons in Penang, though she believed the figure was below the actual figure.

“Internationally, 5% to 10% of the population in any region have disabilities.

“Penang is not so genetically superior that we are exempted from the global situation, so we want to make sure the PTMP is universally accessible,” she said.

On the last-mile connectivity, Yap said the state’s ultimate goal was to put a bus-stop every 400m on every road so no one would need to walk longer than 10 minutes from their home to catch a bus to an LRT station.

Yeap and MMC-Gamuda chief architect Audrey Teo Loh presented papers on the components of the PTMP and universal accessibility of LRT stations respectively.

Yeap described the long-term plans for the LRT routes that would stretch to the northern and southern borders of Penang mainland.

Also, there are plans for a tunnel through Penang Hill’s range connecting Balik Pulau to Paya Terubong and subsequently to the Air Itam-Komtar monorail.

He told participants that these were long-term plans and that even the Komtar-Bayan Lepas LRT would take six years to complete after getting approval from the Land Public Transport Commission.

Al-Bokhari Disabled Persons Association chairman Fatimah Kader Bacha expressed shock at the estimated time line, which brought chuckles from the floor.

“Oh, my God. Six years? I might be dead by then. I really want to live to see the first LRT on the island but will it take that long? My God!” she exclaimed.

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