Close call for wheelchair-user at LRT station

Kirara assemblyman Ng pointing to the platform gap as Sia (in wheelchair) looks on.

ELAINE Sia expected the worst when the front wheel of her wheelchair got stuck in the platform gap at the Pusat Bandar Puchong LRT station.

Sia, an executive superintendent at the Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled (Puchong), said she was prepared to lurch forward to safety if she could not get unstuck in time before the door closes and the train started to move.

Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled is an organisation that cater to people with physically disabilities.

“Thankfully, some Good Samaritans helped pushed me out of harm’s way in time," Sia related.

The incident happened earlier this year when she wanted to try the LRT at the station near the foundation’s Puchong branch. The experience traumatised her so much that she didn't go back until a site visit was arranged with Kinrara assemblyman Ng Sze Han and members of the media.

Sia said she had not expected something like that to happen because most stations (like the following one, Taman Perindustrian Puchong) posed no such problems.

“My husband would drive me to the Kinrara or Kelana Jaya station so I could ride it till the Masjid Jamek station.

“At some stations, the platform is lower than the carriage and I would have to push my wheelchair upwards to get onto the carriage. Someone I knew fell forward when exiting the carriage due to the platform-carriage height difference.

“I get nervous when going to a new station as I would not know if it was disabled-friendly,” she said.

True enough, during the site visit, Sia's wheelchair did get stuck in the platform gap at the Pusat Bandar Puchong station, and Ng had to hurriedly assist her before the doors closed.

And it is not just the gap. People with disabilities (PWD) also face other problems at the station, including malfunctioning elevators.

“I would then have to ask for other commuters to help me to get a staff member at the counter below to help me get down via the escalator,” she said.

As we followed Sia out of the station, we noticed that the walkway, which had tactile paving, did not end with the slope customarily installed for wheelchair-users to exit. As such, Sia had to be assisted to get off the walkway.

She stressed that public transportation was very important to PWD, as most could not drive. Sia suggested that LRT staff be trained to aid PWD.

“There should be a worker stationed at a platform, so we would not have to trouble other commuters to go down to get someone to help me whenever the elevator is not working.

“When we buy tickets at the counter, the staff could alert someone at our destination to be on standby to help us get off the train,” she said, adding that AirAsia provides training 

for their staff to assist PWD.

Citing her experience in Japan, Sia said they would have a dedicated carriage for people with disabilities and a staff member would be in the carriage with them.

“The moment I reach my destination, a ramp would be placed at the platform gap and the staff in the train would assist me so I could can exit with ease,” she said.

It's the same thing for buses in Taiwan where the bus driver would assist disabled passengers. Unfortunately, this not always the case in Malaysia.

“Bus drivers would not come to assist us to get on the bus. A friend told me that once the bus driver did not even stop at his intended destination. He was instead dropped off at a stop far away and had to wheel himself all the way back,” Sia said.

After hearing about Sia’s experience, Ng said he would write to Prasarana to highlight the issues so that public transportation could be made more disabled-friendly.

“Staff should be trained to assist PWD, and the platform gap width should be standardised to prevent such incidents,” he said.

According to a spokesman of rail service operator Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, the elevator at Pusat Bandar Puchong station had malfunctioned for some time due to damage from the rain.

“I have alerted the contractor to look into and get it repaired soon. As for the platform gap, we will visit the site to look into it and further improve facilities for wheelchair users and people with disabilities. 

"Meanwhile, we'd advise commuters on wheelchairs to seek assistance from the station staff,” he said.

He added that he would take Sia’s suggestion to have a worker stationed at the platform into consideration.

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