Saturday, February 14, 2009

Plight of the disabled


TOILETS for the disabled are often too small or are locked.

These are some of the problems faced by the disabled at some places in Penang, said Society of Disabled Persons (Penang) former president Tan Kuan Aw.

Tan, who is wheelchair-bound, said there were also toilets for the disabled which had been turned into storerooms because the managements of buildings where these toilets are located think not many people use them.

He said there were specifications that must be complied with when facilities for the disabled are provided such as handrails for ramps.

But after studying the situation in Penang for a decade, Tan did not think the local authorities were serious when it came to ensuring that these specfications were adhered to.

“The setting up of a barrier-free facility like a toilet for people with disabilities just for the sake of it is a misunderstood concept. There are Sirim standards and requirements that need to be followed,” he said in an interview.

A check by The Star in public places around Penang proved Tan’s descriptions of several public toilets accurate.

One such toilet in a building along the Jelutong Expressway was so small that a disabled person in a wheelchair would find great difficulty to close the toilet door from the inside.

Tight space: A woman in wheelchair demonstrating how difficult it is to use the cramped toilet for disabled persons.

The reason for this, apart from the size of the toilet, is that the toilet door opens the wrong way. It opens inward, instead of outward or sliding.

Another toilet for the disabled persons in a shopping mall is occasionally locked and those who want to use the facility must find the cleaner who has the key, as instructed by a sign stuck to the door.

As for ramps, Tan said some were built without handrails. But in the case of the ramp at the Taman Sri Pinang flats on River Road, it was crossbars that has become a barrier for the disabled.

Stumbling block: A ramp with handrails is provided at Taman Sri Pinang but disabled persons, especially those in wheelchairs, cannot proceed further with the locked crossbars blocking the building's entrance.

Although the ramp has handrails, it is not barrier-free as there are crossbars at the bottom to prevent motorcyclists from using the ramp.

Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) committee member Lim Kah Cheng, who is an ardent activist for people with special needs, said the bars could also be a hindrance during emergencies like fires.

She said ramps could be designed in a way that motorcyclists could not misuse them, adding that the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) had agreed to look into the matter.

“Instead of a ramp, a winding path that motorcyclists will find difficult to manoeuvre their vehicles on can be considered. The council already has the design which is not costly to follow,” said Lim, who is also an MPPP councillor.

Her other complaints include the putting up of signboards, road signs, advertisement boards and other obstructing objects in the middle of pavements or walkways; and high pavements.

Lim said the trick would be to get things right the first time - constructing buildings and providing public facilities that were universal.

“If you build a ramp, build one that is for everybody. What is good for the disabled is good for everyone else,” she added.

Danger lurks: This bus stop at Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong is unsafe for disabled persons, especially for the visually impaired and those in wheelchairs.

MPPP president Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman, when contacted, said the council would take serious note of the problems faced by the disabled with the existing facilites.

“Our officers will conduct checks on these facilities to see if they comply with the required standards. If developers do not comply with building requirements, we will not grant them the CFs,” he added.

Sources: The Star

Saturday, February 7, 2009

CIMB Foundation empowers the disabled

Kuala Lumpur: Being disabled should never be a deterrent for anyone to excel and prove to the society that they are capable individuals. Their greatest wish is to be given fair opportunities including the chance to obtain formal education, professional training and employment.

CIMB Foundation’s Chinese New Year celebration today was a showcase of what the disabled can achieve if given the right opportunities. Four (4) non-government organisations (NGOs), who are among CIMB Community Link’s beneficiaries, were present at the event - Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled, Pusat Majudiri ‘Y’ for the Deaf, Persatuan Braille Malaysia, and Persatuan Wushu, Tarian Naga dan Singa Jing Ying Kuala Lumpur. Through various initiatives, their members were provided with facilities and training to promote self-sufficiency and enabled some of them to earn an income.

Funded by CIMB Foundation, 15 individuals from the Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled were able to take up broadcasting courses at The Voice Academy where they had an opportunity to run their own programme for the disabled on AiFm, a Chinese radio station under RTM and collaborated with NTV7 to produce a Chinese New Year programme in 2008; 14 individuals from Pusat Majudiri ‘Y’ for the Deaf (known as “YMCA Deafbeat”) were trained to play traditional Chinese drums and in performing arts and have since successfully performed in a number of public events; over 200 copies of the al-Quran in Braille format were produced and distributed to various schools for the blind enabling them to learn to recite the verses; and an acrobatic lion dance programme was specially tailored for enthusiastic deaf youths and coached by the Persatuan Wushu, Tarian Naga dan Singa Jing Ying Kuala Lumpur. The acrobatic lion dance troupe has been invited to perform at various events during the recent Chinese New Year celebrations including the CIMB Foundation event today.

“Through Community Link, CIMB Bank and CIMB Islamic branches have identified many worthy causes to be funded to benefit the communities served by the branches. We are very pleased with the results of these programmes, and the beneficiaries present today are a small cross-section of our success stories,” said Dato’ Sri Nazir, Group Chief Executive of CIMB Group. “I am proud of their achievements and we intend to continue our support through CIMB Foundation and empower these and other individuals to look beyond their disabilities and be independent,” he added.

CIMB Foundation also presented RM5,000 to each of the 4 NGOs. Datin Sri Azlina Aziz, wife of Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak, presented the mock cheques to the representatives of the organisations.

CIMB Community Link, is an initiative of CIMB Foundation, implemented by leveraging on the nationwide reach of CIMB Bank and CIMB Islamic’s 367 branch network. Over 180 projects with a budget of RM6.2 million have been allocated to Community Link projects since the inception of the programmes in May 2007.

Sources: CIMB Foundation