‘Thumbs up to free rides for OKU’

But better facilities are needed to help vulnerable groups, the disabled say

KUALA LUMPUR: Blind massage therapist V. Saraswathy can finally breathe a sigh of relief that public transportation in the city will be free for people with disabilities (OKU) like herself.

The 42-year-old said she spends a significant amount to commute to her workplace in the suburban area of Sri Gombak while living in Pudu here.

“My work depends on how many customers come in a day. If I’m lucky, I would get more than one customer.

“And it’s commission-based, maybe about RM25 a day.

“The economic conditions now are harsh and worse for an OKU like myself. We get money from the Welfare Department, but that would only be enough for rent and meals,” she said.

She said the free rides on the train would help reduce her burden and she could use the savings on other expenses instead.

Saraswathy said she also hopes that there will be more such initiatives by the government to further alleviate the financial burdens faced by vulnerable groups.

The Transport Ministry had announced that from next February, OKU will enjoy free rides on all Prasarana trains and buses.

Its Minister Anthony Loke said the initiative is part of Prasarana’s corporate social responsibility agenda and is expected to benefit disabled riders in the Klang Valley, Penang and Kuantan, Pahang.

While the move has been lauded by OKU, they said they also hope the government could address other issues affecting their daily lives.

A 42-year-old man, who wanted to be known only as Andy, said he regularly uses the train to commute to his workplace.

Living in Cheras, he would take the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train to KL Sentral station where he works nearby as a massage therapist.

“The cost to commute contributes to a significant amount in my daily expenses. Sometimes, I take ehailing rides, but nowadays, the fares are exorbitant, leaving train rides as my only option.

“I welcome such a move,” he said when met at Brickfields here.

However, Andy, who is visually impaired, said that some public facilities are still not accessible to OKU, making moving around difficult and dangerous.

“For example, some stretches of the pavement are either broken or blocked by some individuals, which makes it hard for us to move around,” he said, urging the issue be addressed, especially near train and bus stations.

A blind massage therapist, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that some pavements were not in good condition and would expose users to danger.

“I’m happy to hear about the free transportation for OKU. It is timely, especially with the living costs getting more expensive.

“However, I hope that the government can also improve the facilities for blind people or other OKU at some train stations,” said the man, who is in his 30s.

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OKU , PWD , Prasarana , Disabled , Public Transport


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