IN a few more days Hindu's will be celebrating Thaipusam. In Hindu mythology, it is the day Goddess Parvarti bestowed upon her son Lord Muruga the vel (lance) to vanquish evil.
Thousands of disabled Hindu devotees will never have the opportunity in their lifetime to witness the celebration.
This lance denotes spiritual insight and the ability to differentiate right from wrong.
There are thousands of disabled Hindu devotees who would never have the opportunity in their lifetime to witness the celebration in Batu Caves. We, at Damai Disabled Persons Association, had, on various occasions, highlighted our plight to the temple management, relevant authorities, ministers, non-governmental organisations and the public.
To date, nothing has been forthcoming and the temple remains inaccessible to the disabled. I am puzzled that in a country which guarantees freedom of religion, the disabled community has been discriminated against for years because places of worship on high ground are inaccessible.
We were informed that the temple was undergoing a RM3.1 million renovation work.
Damai approached the temple management to include some basic necessities for the disabled, such as the revival of the funicular train service, and toilets and parking space for the disabled.
However, we have only seen a ramp which was built to provide access to the toilet. Unfortunately, the design of the ramp is clearly unsuitable for wheelchair users; in fact it poses danger to users.
The effort to revive the funicular train relates back to 2007, when the Tourism Ministry was told to conduct a study on the old cable railway tracks next to the staircase.
Unfortunately, nothing transpired after that and many Thaipusams have come and gone since.
V. Murugeswaran, President, Damai Disabled Persons Association Selangor and Federal Territory, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
The Batu Caves temple is almost inaccessible to the disabled because little consideration was given to include disabled-friendly features.
PETALING JAYA: The Batu Caves temple grounds, which underwent a RM3.1 million renovation to turn the holy site into a thriving tourism hub, is not disabled-friendly.
According to a disabled group, the temple management had failed to incorporate disabled-friendly features at the site despite having met with the group and heard its suggestions
Expressing his disappointment, Damai Disabled Persons Association president V Murugeswaran said that even if there was a disabled-friendly feature, it was not up to standard specifications.
“Because of that, many disabled Hindu devotees are unable to visit Batu Caves during Thaipusam which falls next Tuesday,” Murugeswaran said, adding that the association had 250 members.
He said the association, which is also a consultant to a prominent bank on providing disabled- friendly facilities, had met with the temple committee last year in a bid to get more suitable features incorporated at the site.
He said among the facilities they requested were the revival of the funicular train, toilets and car parks for the disabled.
“They promised to call us for a meeting but nothing came forth. The only thing they have now is a ramp which was built to provide access to the toilet.
“Unfortunately, the ramp is too steep and could pose a danger to us,” said Murugeswaran.
He added that even the toilets for the disabled were not designed according to proper specification.
He said that in 2007, Tourism Malaysia had announced that it would conduct a study on the old cable railway tracks next to the staircase going up to the temple.
“But nothing has transpired since. We’ve been defeated in our efforts to try and get Batu Caves to become more disabled-friendly.
“Maybe that’s why it may turn to be another Thaipusam-less day for us on Feb 7,” he said.