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Doing more for the disabled

  • January 2, 2009
  • Bruce Bromley

WHEEL POWER
BY ANTHONY THANASAYAN  Star Publications (M) Bhd

HAPPY 2009 to one and all! The events of 2008 have gone down in my record book as the most unexpected and remarkable that I have ever experienced.

I hadn\”™t the faintest idea then that within half a year after the chiming of last year\”™s New Year bells, I would end up as a local councillor for Petaling Jaya, a city which I love.

Of late, like the other councillors, I have also been blessed with a personal assistant, courtesy of the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ).

I am happy to say that the MBPJ has given me several opportunities to make a difference in the lives of disabled residents in PJ.

I head a disability committee with a team of experts (many of them have disabilities themselves) which look into various issues affecting the lives of the disabled.

New buildings in PJ, for instance, must come to our committee first to be screened for disabled-friendly access before they go to a higher level of the council. We are also currently working on guidelines to improve the quality of care for the elderly, and access for the disabled in homes throughout PJ.

However, I must admit that not all is as smooth sailing.

The first was building a wheelchair ramp for a frail and elderly man in a condominium. The developer was all for it but the local residents\”™ association was against it. The ramp, they said, would \”spoil the beauty of the condo\”?.

What surprised me was that the lady who said this was in her 60s.

Did she ever stop to think that she – or the rest of the association members – could one day find the ramp a life-saver in their advancing years?

We ran afoul of some people in my neighbourhood, this time, when the MBPJ built a special wheelchair access into our public park.

For a number of years, access for wheelchairs had been barred because of a locked gate. Some people in the local residents\”™ association didn\”™t want motorcycles to enter or exit for fear of snatch thieves. They didn\”™t care that their action of closing up the entrance had stopped a number of elderly and disabled persons from entering the park until the MBPJ intervened.

The present wheelchair access is so cleverly designed that motorcycles cannot go through it. Motorcyclists will literally have to carry their vehicles on their shoulders to get them across.

The biggest difference yet that the MBPJ is working on now is to provide as many as 150 disabled-friendly car parks in the city. The first one was successfully launched at the MBPJ headquarters last week.

It is located next to the entrance of the building and is a fully covered shelter. Some asked if the facility will be underused. That is not only a very outdated way of thinking in this day and age, it is essentially a wrong question for anyone to ask.

With the increasing population of elderly persons and the number of people with disabilities, the right question that we should be asking is whether we will have enough parking bays for the disabled in the near future.

For now, MBPJ has promised to cover at least 20 of its 150 car parks for the disabled in PJ. The council hopes to get sponsors to cover up the rest.

The entire project is expected to be completed by June next year.