Universal design now the rule

Petaling Jaya councillor Sia Siew Chin points out one of the flaws on public roads that create barriers for the disabled.

ALL new developments in Petaling Jaya will be required to seek building design approval from the council’s Universal Design Unit (UDU) before applications are accepted for planning approval.

Petaling Jaya mayor Datuk Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said the Universal Design Unit was formed late last year to ensure all developments adhered to the universal design needs.

“This unit will ensure the developments incorporate universal building design features such as suitable access for all including the disabled.

“Only with the Universal Design Unit’s approval, can the project be submitted for planning approval at the One-Stop Centre,” he explained.

The council has eight trained officers to ensure the universal design requirements are complied with.

The PJ City Free Bus service uses vehicles that are disabled-friendly.

“We have trained staff who are able to audit and carry out assessment for universal design compliances. They will inspect a project twice. The first inspection is carried out when the project is 75% completed and the second inspection is scheduled for when the building receives the certificate of compliance and competency (CCC).

Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) hosted the 5th International Conference on Universal Design In The Built Environment 2017 (ICUDBE2017) at the council’s Civic Centre in Jalan Yong Shook Lin.

It featured international speakers from countries such as Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Universal Design consultant Joseph Kwan from Hong Kong, said countries should realise that all amenities provided had to be people-centric and be considerate of the elderly.

He said this was necessary as the population trends in Asia-Pacific by 2050 would see some 25% over the age of 80.

Petaling Jaya City Council carrying out its audit test on accessibility as the city advocates for universal design compliance.
MB PJ carrying out its audit on accessibility as the city advocates universal design compliance.

“We have to always put people first and not vehicles when we are planning our city roads. Always make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,” he emphasised.

He added that it was important to always provide training in disability awareness and sensitivity to ageing and disability issues which correlates with hospitality and service industry.

UK’s Burohappold Engineering Inclusive Design associate director Neil Smith said the London 2012 Olympics set new standards for inclusive and sustainable design in sporting facilities, residential developments, transport procurement and service delivery.

He said the term “inclusive design” encompassed “the whole life experience of people” instead of the limited definition of ramps for wheelchair users.

“London’s O2 Arena roof can be accessed by wheelchair users and this provides an experience for all,” he cited as example.

He added that housing projects and historically significant industrial buildings should be accessible while the design of the building retained.

Petaling Jaya City Council Planning Department staff holding discussion with representative from the disabled communities over council projects to seek their input and views.
Petaling Jaya City Council Planning Department staff holding discussion with representatives from the disabled community over council projects to seek their input and views.

Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights representative of Thailand Dr Seree Nonthasoot said it was a public duty to provide the disabled their rights and it should not be on charity basis.

“Going to work should not take two hours for the disabled person with the help of many people resulting from a lack of amenities, while it takes a fraction of the time for an able-bodied person,” he said.

MBPJ is also in the midst of preparing its Universal Design Master Plan 2030 which will act as a reference for other local councils in Selangor as well as the country,” said Mohd Azizi.

“Countries such as Britain, Sweden and Denmark have detailed guidelines for universal designs, which ensure that every building and the facilities in it are based on the universal design concept. This is a way to create an inclusive society.

“Taking note of all these good practices from around the world, the council is preparing the Universal Design Master Plan 2030.

Challenges to creating a barrier-free city include removing huge trees like this on the pavement along Jalan 17/13, Petaling Jaya.
Challenges to creating a barrier-free city include removing huge trees like this on the pavement along Jalan 17/13, Petaling Jaya.

“This was among our motivation to host the inaugural international conference on universal design,” he added.

The mayor said MBPJ had been committed to implementing the barrier-free city concept since 2000.

To-date, the city council has carried out access audits at 270 locations which consist of council and private buildings, shared its expertise with more than 10 agencies and local councils, organised over 80 seminars and workshops besides carrying out programmes and activities for the disabled community.

MBPJ has also upgraded and modified its buildings, public parks and existing infrastructure to be disabled friendly.

“We have upgraded 34 buildings and council halls, some 77.9km of walkways now have tactile paving, 10 public parks and 25 public transport hubs have been upgraded to be barrier-free compliant,” he said.

He also highlighted that the council had launched 22 free bus services that were disabled friendly.

“Next year we will have 10 more buses, which will cost the council RM3mil,” he added.

In 2006, MBPJ became the first local council in Malaysia to have a special committee to oversee the needs of the disabled.

The committee carried out researches, provided input on facilities for the disabled both at the council level and for private developments. The committee also advised the council with technical matters.

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