YESTERDAY, I took a nostalgic trip to Jalan Tun Sambanthan 4 to satisfy my cravings for the delectable banana fritters and curry puffs that I used to buy when I was working in Kuala Lumpur. The stretch of Jalan Tun Sambanthan from Public Bank to the Monorail Station is a vibrant commercial area. It is strategically located near Sentral LRT Station. The accessibility to public transport and connectivity to other places has enhanced its potential not only as a thriving business area.
But vibrancy means traffic congestion. The gridlock is not a problem for shoppers, office workers, students and tourists but it is a difficult task for the blind and partially visual-impaired people to navigate through.
Many of them converge on this area as the Malaysian Association of Blind (MAB) building is at the end of the road opposite the Monorail station. They come to attend courses and meetings or seeking professional help. Some of them have completed training as masseurs and offer the service in this area.
I have observed that they have a strong spirit of self-reliance. It is amazing to see them walk with great confidence. Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has done a great job of building tactile paving on all pavements to assist the blind and partially visual-impaired pedestrians enhance their mobility in this area.
The system of textured ground surface indicators is like braille on pavement. In the Tun Sambanthan 4 area, DBKL has built yellow-coloured tactile pavements of two distinctive patterns that are detectable by walking canes or shoes. The directional guidance tactile paving is to guide blind pedestrians through open areas avoiding hazards and obstructions while the blister tactile surface provides a warning that they are at road crossing. The tactile pavement simplifies their mental map to their destination, for example from the Sentral LRT station or Monorail station to the MAB building and vice versa.
Unfortunately, this mental map if often disrupted by inconsiderate drivers who park their vehicles on both sides of the road, stop their vehicles on the yellow box or zebra crossing, and park their vehicles on the tactile pavements. Also, any minor construction work on the pavement or road similarly impacts on their movement. Fortunately there are kind people who guide them away from this danger and direct them to the right way.
Concerted efforts must be made to ensure this area is safe and user-friendly for the visually-impaired. Police and DBKL must enforce the laws and regulations against indiscriminate and illegal parking of vehicles on the road. Enforcement officers should be stationed on a more regular basis. In the long run, it will help to sensitise the public on the predicament and special needs of visually-impaired people.
DBKL could erect signage at strategic locations along the streets to alert drivers that a particular area has many pedestrians who are visual-impaired. This signage will prompt them to drive carefully. Finally, NGOs that have a huge cadre of volunteers could station them in the area to help the blind cross the road or avoid vehicles that are parked illegally or double-parked.
The visually-impaired have the courage and true grit to undertake a journey to be integrated into society. Let us do our part by making the roads a safe place for them.
DATO WEE BENG EE
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