Tue, 14 Dec 2010 11:17
By Patrick Lee
PETALING JAYA: It isn't easy being a disabled person. Confined to wheelchairs and dependant on crutches, many have had the toughest of times in entering even the most public of places.
V Murugeswaran, president of the Damai Disabled Association found this out the hard way after trying to settle his traffic summons at the Petaling Jaya police station on Dec 6.
With many people present on that day to clear their unpaid traffic summonses, the line to the checking counter stretched out of the police station to a nearby road.
After queueing for half an hour in the sun, the wheelchair-bound Murugeswaran, eventually approached his first obstacle into the police station - the staircase.
"I had difficulty entering the police station due to the stairs," said Murugeswaran,, adding that there was no ramp in sight for him to enter the station.
Luckily, a policeman stationed nearby noticed Murugeswaran,'s plight and carried him over the stairs. He was then presented with a print slip to present for payment at another counter.
The policeman then told him that there would be two more officers to help him scale the next two steps that led to the second counter to settle his payment.
But there were no officers and Murugeswaran,was conveniently ignored by the large crowd who had gathered in the room by the payment counter.
"Many of them were not bothered to extend a helping hand," Murugesan said bitterly as he waited by the steps for assistance.
He then approached a policeman for help, but was fobbed off with excuses. Ignored by officers and passers-by alike, the Damai president had to struggle over the steps himself.
"If you know how to do a 'wheelie' on the wheelchair, you could scale the steps. But you must have a lot of hand strength to do it," he said.
After an arduous attempt, he made it up the stairs and had to take a number to be served. But because of the large crowd, he had to wait for nearly three hours before paying his summons.
Murugeswaran was also not able to leave the room to go to the toilet, as he would have to have decend the steps to use the toilet and brave the climb up the staircase once more.
"My bladder was getting a full, I got fed up of waiting," said Murugeswaran,, who then bulldozed his way through the crowd before reaching the payment counter itself and plead his case.
He was able to pay his summons. Although the episode has annoyed him considerably, the Damai president's experience was not altogether unexpected.
“The attitude of the staff was not friendly, but at the end of the day what can you expect from policemen,” he said. "There is no proper arrangement of helping the public.
"They should have anticipated various types of people wanting to settle their summonses. They only anticipate able-bodied people going there.
"What if I got involved in an accident, and had to make a police report? Making a report takes time, and you have to move around and sometimes use the toilet," he said.
Schools too, are disabled-unfriendly
Murugeswaran said none of the toilets at the station were disabled-friendly and police stations were not the only government buildings that are proving a chore for the disabled.
Dr Tiun Ling Ta, president of the Disabled Association of Malaysia, said that many of the country's courts were unsafe as well.
“ Aside from the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, all courts in the country are not disabled-friendly,” said Tiun, recalling an incident when he fell off a steeply-built ramp trying to get to court.
Tiun said that schools were just as difficult when it came to getting around, which often sidelined disabled students from day-to-day student life.
“We have to go to a normal mainstream school, but these schools aren't catered for us, so we cannot be a part of the activities. We have to be just a bystander,” he said.
He also said that while some buildings had installed ramps for the disabled, many were not built to the Uniformed Building By-Laws (UBBL).
The UBBL is a set of guidelines designed for the mobility of disabled people in urban areas.
Peter Tan, a disabled rights activist, echoed Tiun's sentiments when he had to make a police report at the Pandan Perdana police station two years ago.
“I accompanied my wife there to report a snatch theft. There was a ramp, but it was too steep and dangerous (to climb), even with the assistance of my wife,” Tan told FMT.
“A ramp doesn't necessarily make it accessible. It must have a proper gradient for wheelchair users to go up and down independently,” he said.