Wheelchair users gather at Mid Valley to press for better accessibility

Geraldine Tong

Modified 26 Sep 2016, 7:03 am

For most people, going to the Mid Valley Megamall shopping complex is no harder than braving the bad traffic and trying to find parking space there.

But for those who have to use wheelchairs, getting access to the mall involves dealing with the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) train stations, informing the mall authorities that they would need help, and traversing the busy roads from the KTM Mid Valley train station to the mall.

The difficulty in accessing the mall could be solved by simply building a lift at the pedestrian bridge linking the train station to the Mid Valley Megamall's north court entrance, according to the Damai Disabled Persons Association Malaysia president, V Murugeswaran.

Murugeswaran, along with more than 30 others from his association and the Dual Blessing Bhd, held a peaceful gathering in front of the north court entrance at Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur today.

They were protesting the lack of accessibility, not only to the Mid Valley mall, but to most public places, as well as demanding a permanent solution to this issue.

"The KTM station is just next to Mid Valley (but) our disabled people have been struggling all this while (to access the mall).

"We can come out of the station but to actually reach the mall, within that short distance, we have major obstacles. There is no proper access.

"We have to go through the busy road, stop the cars, and then there is a big kerb where someone has to help us go up before we can reach the station (when leaving)," Murugeswaran told reporters at the peaceful gathering.

While he hoped that the authorities would take more long-term actions to make the city more disabled-friendly and accessible for the wheelchair-bound, a more immediate solution specific to Mid Valley would be to build a lift at the pedestrian bridge.

Dual Blessing executive director Danny Tan said there were many events and exhibitions held at Mid Valley but the lack of accessibility for wheelchair users meant that they missed out on many of those events.

They would have to rely on other means to get to the mall, such as using a taxi or getting their family or friends to send them, he said.

But, he added, they want to be able to move independently, without having to rely on others.

"It's the government's responsibility as we are also citizens," Tan said.

As such, they are calling for KTM, Kuala Lumpur City Hall as well as the Mid Valley Megamall authorities to take action to solve their accessibility issues.

Little has changed

From 2010 to 2014, Murugeswearan said, he was the representative for the wheelchair-using disabled at meetings with the Transport Ministry and various other public transport providers.

"For four years, I highlighted these (accessibility) issues in the meetings," he said, later lamenting that not much has changed despite that.

The group of wheelchair-using disabled, along with some of their helpers, also demonstrated the route they would have to take to reach the KTM station from the mall.

With the help of two auxiliary police officers from Mid Valley, they travelled from the mall towards the train stations by the side of the road, and the police officers had to stop the traffic while they crossed the road.

After that, the officers and some of the helpers had to assist them in lifting their wheelchairs up the sidewalk kerb that leads to the train station.

According to the auxiliary police officers, there are usually two of them on standby, one at the mall's north court entrance and the other at the sidewalk in front of the train station, to assist the disabled.

They estimated that they help around five to six wheelchair users traverse the short distance between the station and the mall every day.

There are two lifts at the train station leading to the platforms, each able to accommodate three wheelchairs each time.

Damai vice-president M Munusamy pointed to a ramp at the platform that leads to the road outside the Mid Valley mall.

The ramp is steep, locked behind a heavy gate and leads straight to the busy road.

"The ramp is very dangerous. It's so steep and it's locked. We have to call Mid Valley for them to help us (if we want to use the ramp)," Munusamy explained.

He also said that if they were to try to use the ramp by themselves, they might lose control and end up barging into oncoming traffic.

"We have all the proper guidelines on how a ramp should be. It should be zigzagged (for safety).

"We can give the guidelines to them (the authorities)," he said.

Not only that, Munusamy also complained that there is a five-inch gap between the train entrance and the platform, which makes it difficult for them to manoeuvre their wheelchairs on and off the train.

When a train stopped at the station during the gathering, a couple of them demonstrated how they would get on and off the train.

One of them expertly lifted the front wheels of his wheelchair to cross the gap, while the other had to reverse his wheelchair in as the back wheels were larger, and would not get caught in the gap.

Munusamy also pointed out that he, as well as some others, have limited use of their hands as well.

Murugeswaran said town planning committees, especially those in the local councils, needed to do their town planning more thoughtfully.

He questioned why the mall was not built around the KTM station so that the disabled can have direct entry to the mall, pointing out that most other countries practised this concept.

"Since they never did that, they also did not have an alternative solution. Hopefully, from today, there will be some kind of a permanent solution.

"We contribute just as much to the country as anyone else," Murugeswaran said.

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