The disabled community appreciates MBPJ for having a heart to listen to their plight and predicament
Whilst many Malaysians in the city chose to spend the last few days of a very eventful 2013 in popular shopping centres, hotels and fine dining restaurants, a group of 70-odd disabled and elderly residents in Petaling Jaya decided to observe the occasion in a most unusual venue: at the local council’s headquarters in Jalan Yong Shook Lin.
They came in their wheelchairs and with white canes.
The blind were accompanied by their visually impaired friends or a sighted chum whilst the physically handicapped brought along their family caregivers.
And by the end of the half day morning event, the beaming faces of the participants spoke volumes about the great time they had, thanks to the Petaling Jaya City Council or MBPJ who had organised the entire event.
The occasion was to celebrate the United Nation’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities which fell Dec 3.
MBPJ decided to coincide the occasion during the holiday period to give the handicapped community a great time. Persons with all types of disabilities, from stroke survivors, persons with mental illness and representatives of elderly homes were invited to take part.
At first the organisers were concerned that the numbers wouldn’t be achieved owing to the fact that many people had their own plans for the year-end.
But when the disabled community heard about what was in store in the programme, they started coming in; even doubling our original numbers.
The programme began with MBPJ detailing all that had been done for the disabled community, especially over the past five years.
The participants got to see a slide presentation of the various activities that MBPJ had held. These included lots of features from providing wheelchair access within and outside buildings.
Section 52 to be role model
One of the most exciting programme was the monthly disability technical meeting, where developers and architects attend to get perspectives from the disabled community as to how they can build facilities that are user-friendly for them.
A major highlight is MBPJ’s Section 52 disabled friendly project scheduled for this year. The council is embarking on a significant plan to make Section 52 wheelchair friendly as a model not only to the city but to the entire nation.
Disabled participants also got to see the Petaling Jaya City Council’s new artwork in a giant backdrop on screen where only able-bodied persons could do so before. This time around one could easily see the real communities of PJ which include persons on wheelchairs, the blind (including with a guide dog), the elderly, pregnant women and children.
Majority agreed that the discussions after the presentations were the most interesting of all. Everyone was given a chance to talk. The disabled community shared their frustrations living in a city that is hostile to their needs.
Even when disabled car parks are provided for us, the able-bodied abuse them. They suggested that tougher fines be imposed on the perpetrators – including driving licences withdrawn for repeat offenders.
Other disabled persons were keen on setting up food stalls in PJ to eke out a living. They called for local council staff and officers to be more sympathetic to their plight.
Two persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) attended for the very first time. One of them, Padma Panikker, president of MS Society, picked up the microphone and told the audience that they were thrilled to have attended the event.
“Even though I have to struggle daily with my condition, it was indeed an eye opener for us to note that something good and great like this was happening for the disabled in MBPJ. It must never stop!” she said, to loud applause from the audience.
A little person, aged 60 years and above and at the height of 3 feet and 3 inches, was loud and tall with his comments and words of appreciation of the event.
He said this was his first time to participate in such an event and meet so many people with different types of disabilities. He said he was honoured to be able to share with the local council some of his unique problems as a midget in the public.
The blind felt appreciated
President of the Adult Blind Association of Selangor (ABAS), Yam Tong Woo, 60, was all thumbs up for the event.
“We are proud that not only are nearly a dozen of our members present today, but today’s event gives us a rare opportunity to hear and mingle with people with disabilities other than the blind,” said Yam to more cheers and claps from the audience.
“I’ve been happy to contribute to MBPJ regarding issues faced by the blind. I think all other councils in the state and country should follow its example to involve disabled group representatives in matters involving them.
“The popular slogan by the international disabled community, ‘Nothing about us without us’ certainly took the front seat today making it truly a very meaningful event,” he concluded.
Another blind member of ABAS, a woman by the name of Vicky, was also full of praises for MBPJ.
“We are most encouraged to have a local council take so much interest in our issues – a great start for 2014. We are so glad to be remembered instead of remaining ‘invisible’ constituents all the time.
“Does anyone realise how unsafe our city still is for the blind outdoors? Open drains that the blind could fall into, crossing the road without the aid of audible traffic lights to let me know that it was safe to cross. Have you ever tried crossing the road blindfolded? Try it sometime; and you will immediately know what we are talking about!”
Two MBPJ’s able-bodied drivers of the council’s two vans were appreciated for ferrying the disabled. The event came with breakfast and lunch. There was also a cake cutting ceremony for IDPD.
The programme ended with everyone singing “Auld Lang Syne” to the accompaniment played by a blind individual.
Anthony SB Thanasayan is a wheelchair and animal activist. He is also a city councillor.