Disabled seek representation in councils to ensure their needs are met

THE disabled community wants a direct voice in the local government, to ensure their needs are properly addressed.

Damai Disabled Person Association Malaysia (DDPAM) president V. Murugeswaran suggested appointing a councillor from the disabled community to every local council.

Several other NGOs for the disabled concurred, saying they were attempting to meet Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to highlight their plight and hand over a memorandum.

“There are 288 councillors sitting in the 12 local authorities in Selangor, and there is only one representative from the disabled community at the moment.

“In 2008, there were three, but now only one is left,” said Murugeswaran.

“Having a disabled representative in every council can help ensure the needs of the community are taken into consideration during the town-planning process.

“It will also ensure that the implementation of any plan will be practical and meet the needs of the disabled,” he added.

Admittedly as awareness of issues facing the disabled increases, local councils in Selangor have been installing more disabled-friendly facilities.

Unfortunately, in reality, these facilities do not benefit the disabled community much.

For example, the Jalan Othman bus station in Petaling Jaya is frequented by disabled-friendly public buses. However, wheelchair-bound commuters cannot board the buses because the platforms are too high and do not have ramps. They are then forced to wait in an area designated for vehicles, which is dangerous.

Ill-equipped: The platforms in the Jalan Othman bus station are not equipped with a ramp. Given the high traffic in the vicinity, making waiting for buses outside the platform dangerous.
Ill-equipped: The platforms in the Jalan Othman bus station are not equipped with a ramp. Given the high traffic in the vicinity, making waiting for buses outside the platform dangerous. 

Another example is the busy SS15 Subang Jaya commercial area, which has several parking bays for the disabled but without ramps nearby to provide the disabled access to the shops.

Broken tiles, missing drain covers and poles built along tactile paths are other common examples of the difficulty faced by the disabled community in urban areas.

Despite good intentions on the part of the councils to create a barrier-free environment, poor implementation is still hampering these efforts.

“The connectivity is still not there,” said Murugeswaran, who showed StarMetro some of the inconveniences faced by the disabled every day.

DDPAM was set up in 1998 and currently has 250 members.

According to Murugeswaran, many frequently-visited places such as banks, clinics and restaurants were not disabled-friendly.

Murugeswaran feels that more should be done.

He said that even with the Uniform Building (Amendment) By-Law 1991, which has been adopted in Selangor, many buildings still failed to conform to the requirements mentioned in MS (Malaysian Standard) 1331 and MS1184 of the by-law including those in new townships.

“We need to have a stronger voice for bigger impact. If this is not done now, we do not know when it will happen,” he added.

Society of Chinese Disabled Persons Malaysia (SCDPM) president Tan Lay Har acknowledged that there had been some improvements over the past few years, but the community hoped to see more.

She said that while there were laws protecting the disabled, including the Persons with Disability Act 2008 and the Uniform Building (Amendment) By-Law 1991, they still had no avenue to raise their grievances if standards outlined in these laws were violated.

“At the end of the day, it is necessary to have a masterplan that automatically takes into account the rights of the disabled,” she said.

SCDPM accessiblity committee chairman Christine Lee said having a councillor representing them in every council would be a good move, but that was not the only answer.

“The council’s planning and budget units are other areas which should consider the disabled.

“We hope the appointment of the disabled councillor can be done through consultation with the relevant NGOs.

“We need complete connectivity so that we can move around the city like everybody else. This is not the situation now.

“When we brought it up 20 to 30 years ago, people said we were being idealistic. They are still saying the same thing today.

“How many more decades do we have to wait for a barrier-free society?” she asked.

The call for representation from the disabled community has been welcomed by other groups.

Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang said he supported the move as matters concerning the community would be addressed in a more practical manner, and with greater sense of urgency.

However, he said the councillor representing the disabled community must be selected based on merit, and those who did not perform should be replaced.

“There must be better transparency in the selection of councillors from NGOs, who are supposed to make up 25% of the total.

“Currently, the 25% has not been reached and many councillors appointed under the quota seem to be from political NGOs,” he said.

Damansara Jaya Residents and Owners Association (DJROA) chairman Datuk Yew Cheng Hoe also welcomed the proposal as it could help ensure that the community, which constitutes a large segment of society, was well represented.

Petaling Jaya Utara MCA division chairman Tan Gim Tuan said facilities provided for the disabled in Selangor were “far from satisfactory,” therefore it would be a wise move to include a disabled person in every council to have their interests protected.

“This will be a good move. The Selangor government should maintain the 25% quota for NGOs at all times.

“Also, do not forget that they have called for councillors to be elected by the people. I hope they can fulfil that promise in the near future,” said Tan.

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