LETTER

Have at least basic accessibility for the disabled

Abdul Karim Stuart Russell

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

United Nation's International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP), on Sunday Dec 3, is a wonderful opportunity to promote understanding and increase awareness in Malaysia of disability issues, and promulgate the importance of independence, ease of movement, integration, dignity, equal rights and the well-being of persons with disabilities of all kinds.

With good education, full accessibility to facilities such as buildings and public transport; proper training and understanding employers, persons with disabilities can be an asset to the nation and should be integrated into, and participate in, every facet of social, economic, political and cultural life in Malaysia.

The serious deficiencies of our public transport systems hamper the independence, equal rights, dignity and well-being of all persons with disabilities. These deficits must be rectified because they are fundamental prerequisites to integration and independence.

The disabled are discriminated against and Malaysians with disabilities - even in Kuala Lumpur - are excluded from almost all public transport.

Taxi drivers charge wheelchair users an additional RM10 to carry a wheelchair while the blind get taken on a roundabout route so that the taxi meter clocks up a higher fee. Some airlines charge an extra fee to use a wheelchair, and even claim the right to refuse to carry the disabled.

Authorities do not provide properly designed footpaths, road crossings, do not adhere to universal standards regarding the head clearance for signs, for the placement of street furniture, the provision of wheelchair ramps, etc.

Consequently people with disabilities in Malaysia cannot safely make their own way around the locality where they live or venture further afield to reach a car park or public transport system.

E-Accessibility is the theme for IDDP 2006 but here in Malaysia, if the disabled simply have basic accessibility, they will be genuinely delighted and the nation will be one step closer to eventually being a developed country.

The writer is spokesperson for Action and Inclusion for the Disabled (Aid).