I am a wheelchair user in Penang. I started this blog to help wheelchair users who like to know the places they can visit in Penang. It is also my wish to help to improve the accessibility for the disabled throughout Penang. Please feel free to use the material available in this blog . They are copyright free.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Disabled Access Memorandum of 1985
In 1985, MPPP (The Municipal Council of Penang) invited the public to give input to their draft structure plan. Peter Chin, John Kim and I decided to get together to write a memorandum for MPPP. The final paper was supported by nine disabled NGOs and various other individuals. We were invited to MPPP to meet the secretary and present the paper to their officials. The final Structure Plan did have a section on disabled access. But that did not bring about any improvement in disabled access in Penang.
(I am publishing the paper because a friend told me a few years ago that there is not much documents on disabled people's struggle here.)
Here is the full text of the memorandum:
December 31st, 1985
MEMORANDUM ON ACCESS TO PUBLIC
VIEWS FROM "DISABLE PERSONS ACTION
TO PENANG ISLAND STRUCTURE PLAN UNIT AND
OTHER RELEVANT AUTHORITIES OF PENANG.
Access to public facilities are denied
not only to the disabled but also to many sections of the general public. The
problems ofaccess are related to three
important factors -- structural designs, inadequate understanding of the needs
of the disabled, and the lack of appropriate legislation or the enforcement of
such legislation if any. If these factors can be overcome, not only would the
disabled benefit, but also the print-handicapped,1young children, pregnant mothers, the aged,
the poor, etc.
Therefore, we are not asking for special
rights, but equal rights for everyone to be able to enjoy the same facilities
-- facilities meant for a society of which everyone is an essential part.
Until recently, problems of access for
the disabled have not received any significant attention. While society has progressed
to the extent that transport and communication have become indispensable to
modern living, only very little consideration has been given to this aspect of
disabled persons' needs. Institutionalized thinking towards disabled persons
have misled the government and the public to feel that disabled persons should
only stay at home or in welfare institutions. No attempt has been made to
minimize disabled persons' problems of access to public facilities and
What is meant by the problems of access
to public facilities? The problems of access are simply the problems, obstacles
and dangers, disabled persons face when they live and move around in an
environment designed only to meet the needs of healthy and non-disabled
persons. The problems include the dangers of traveling in public streets, the
problems of using public facilities and public transport systems, the obstacles
of getting in and out of public access buildings, and the inconveniences caused
by the design and layout of our physical environment as a whole.
As a group of disabled persons and
representatives of various organizations serving disabled persons, we feel the
problems have very far ranging effects on disabled persons as a whole. The
problems are in fact the main obstacles to many disabled persons trying to live
productive and independent lives. This memorandum aims to highlight the
problems and give a more detailed explanation to various aspects of the
problems. We therefore hope that the government of Penang and the Penang Structure
Plan Unit will l take this opportunity to help in solving these problems so as
to redress pass neglect.
Objectives of Memorandum
The main objective of this memorandum
are : -
point out the government and relevant agencies the obstacles, both physical and
non-physical, which inhibit or prohibit access to public facilities for many of
the country's citizen -- especially the disabled citizens,
show why the problems of access must be overcome and that disabled citizens
have basic rights to enjoy public facilities,
make suitable recommendations for implementation by the government and other
The Need to Resolve the Problems
authorities have often overlooked the problems of the disabled because:-
is generally thought that only 1% of our population is disabled and to spend a
large amount of money on this minority is not economically justifiable.
belief does not in the least, reflect the real situation. The official
statistics concerning the number of disabled persons of this country is a
projection based on a sampling survey done in1958 which was pointed out as being inaccurate even at that time. The
accuracy of the statistics is highly questionable when we compare them with the
7% estimate given by the United Nations in 1981.
Dr. Ismail Muhd. Salleh, a social scientist from Universiti Kebangsaan
Malaysia, has this to say about the statistics. In a paper presented by him at
the "Seminar Kebangsaan Tahun Antarabangsa Orang-orang Cacat " in 1981,
he state that,
"The last survey conducted to
collect information on the handicapped persons inPeninsular Malaysia was in 1958 and the
information can no longer be regarded as representative of the handicapped
persons today, ... Based on the 1958 survey, the major categories of
handicapped persons ... constituted approximately 1% of the total population.
The United Nations, on the other hand, puts the estimate of the number of
handicapped persons in the developing contras at 7% of the total population."
In another paper in the same seminar,
the former Director General ofWelfare
Services, Dato Adnan Bin Haji Abdullah, estimated that 1 out of 10 persons is
handicapped if we include the aged, the chronically ill, and those who are
In the absence of a more recent survey
regarding the actual number of disabled persons in this country, it is
reasonable to deduce that the figure is definitely way above 1%. A conservative
estimate could place the figure at around 5% --- i.e. 1 out of 20 persons in
If we accept this estimate, then we will
see that a sizable number of the citizens of this country are experiencing
problems of access to public facilities and amenities. Many of these citizens
are unable to seek employment, and live more productive and independent lives
because of these problems of access. By doing nothing to solve the problems of
society is unconsciously setting up barriers which prevent the disabled from
achieving their goals.
has been assumed that the needs of the disabled have been and should be
adequately catered for by institutions, particularly those supported by
voluntary efforts, or by the families of the disabled themselves. As such, it
is thought that they have no need of independent access to public are neither
feasible economically nor desirable psychologically. The cost of providing
adequately for the disabled through institutionalization is prohibitive.
Segregation them from the main stream of society is contrary to the expressed
goals of the United Nations in its resolution. no 31/123 2 which has been
adopted by our government . Psychologically it is much healthier for the nation
as a whole and for the disabled in particular, if they are integrated as fully
as possible into the main stream of society. This implies among other things,
economic and social independence which is only possible if the disabled have
independent access to public facilities and amenities.
the problems of access to public facilities will not only help the disabled
alone. Although it is true that the need to overcome the problems is most
urgently felt by the disabled, solution to the problems will benefit other
categories of citizens, namely,the
aged, the chronically ill, people of short stature ... etc.
which are essential for wheelchair users are equally useful to the aged, stroke
victims, and those with bad heart conditions. Covered drains are safe not only
for the blind, but also for children and those with poor eyesight. Public
phones and lift control pedals which are reachable to wheelchair users will
also be convenient for people of short stature. If one takes the needs of these
people into consideration, it is clear that a sizable number of able-bodied
citizens will also benefit from the solutions to the problems of access.
has often been thought that large amounts of money will have to be spent to
make our environment and public facilities more accessible to the disabled.
This argument is however groundless. As pointed out by the Singapore Institute
of Architect, the actual cost of implementing their recommendations for the
disabled, constitutes only 1% of the total cost of construction. If it is
realized that this extra 1% construction cost will benefit 5% of our population
which is disabled, plus a further 5% which includes other categories of
citizens, then it is clear that the extra cost is well justified.
public facilities more accessible to the disabled will contribute to their
independent mobility which will greatly enhance their opportunities for
employment. This in turn will result in them becoming more productive and
useful citizens. This will make sense of the expenses incurred in educating and
expenditure on improving the accessibility of public facilities to the disabled
can be further justified on social and economic grounds. As citizens of this
country, the disabled should equally benefit from public facilities which are
publicly funded. The fact that many disabled persons are paying taxes (both
direct and indirect) entitles them to enjoy such facilities which have hither
to been denied them.
should be noted that we are not demanding extra privileges but merely asking
for the opportunity to exercise rights which are fundamental to all citizens --
be they disabled or not.
Types of Public Facilities and Amenities
These includes :-
buildings and Public Access Buildings
and recreational facilities.
gravely, bumpy and uneven pavements or sidewalks pose problems, especially for
the orthopaedically disabled.
pavements and high raised kerbs are problems for wheelchair-users.
indication of pavement ending, driveway entrance and road junction, no distinct
kerb or grass verge, as well as open manholes, open drains, sudden drop-offs,
raised water-meters, badly parked vehicles, piles of construction materials and
rubbish strewn along the way etc., are problems for the blind.
road-dividers make it impossible for wheelchair-users to cross the street,
of overhead pedestrian bridges, modified traffic lights, etc., make road
traveling dangerous for the blind,
of consistency in positioning of street furniture such as bus-stops,
lamp-posts, billboards, sign-boards, etc., are a problem to the blind,
objects and structures such as those put up for street beautification can prove
hazardous for the blind,
of legislation or its enforcement concerning provision and standardization of
street furniture, traffic regulations, etc., pose a problem for the disabled in
have great difficulties in using buses, the cheapest means of transport in this
by taxi drivers to accept disabled passengers, especially wheel-chair-users, is
a problem for the mobility of the disabled.
blind and the print handicapped have difficulties in identifying the right
Buildings and Public Access Buildings
include government offices, post officers, banks, community libraries, public
halls, supermarkets, cinemas, theaters, hotels, etc.
offices and public facilities located away from bus routes, requiring long and
tiring walks from people on crutches, are a problem to the disabled.
big buildings are entered by way of an imposing flight of steps, making them
inaccessible to wheelchair-users.
multi-storeyed buildings do not have lifts that start from ground floor or
reach the top floor.
buildings without lifts or ramps are very difficult for wheelchair-users.
toilets are not usually adapted for use by the disabled. Toilets and toilet
doors are often too narrow for wheelchair, and the wet slippery floors in such
toilets pose a danger to all who use them.
f)Parkingfacilities do not cater for needs of certain
recessed and sharp-angled walls, etc., pose traveling hazards for the blind.
is a lack of distinct indication to help the blind identify entrances and exits
counters make it difficult for wheelchair-users and those of short stature to
carry out business. There is often no information counter in complex buildings
to help members of the public locate departments, toilets, etc. This is
especially inconvenient for the blind.
lack a of visual communication system in government offices, banks and
hospitals, etc., make it difficult for the deaf.
is a lack of effective and consistent housing policy to cater for the needs of
disabled persons, owing to a lack of consultation with disabled persons when
planning flats or housing. For example, most flats are unsuitable for
persons have difficulty in purchasing their own homes from the government or
private sector for reasons such as low income, prejudice, difficulty in getting
presence of dangerous obstacles like open drains, big drop-offs, badly packed
vehicles, etc., in housing areas impede the mobility of the disabled.
is a lack of facilities within blocks of flats to help certain groups cope with
daily living, e.g. lifts are often too small lift buttons are beyond the reach
of wheelchair-users and people of short stature, there are no tactile or audio
indicator to help the blind. Corridors are sometimes too narrow for wheel-chair
of provision to allow for modifications of flats for the use ofthe disabled, make it very difficult for
wheelchair-users to reside in flats.
and Recreational Facilities
include government services, communication and information services, telephone
booths, recreational facilities and other public utilities and amenities.
access to government services, e.g. limited access to government information
for the blind and the print handicapped. Lack of government consultation with
various groups such as the disabled on the planning and improvement of public
accessto information services and
libraries which do not cater for the special needs of certain categories
ofpeople such as the blind and
booths are inaccessible either because the booths are placed above ground or
phones are placed at unreachable heights for wheelchair-users.
group are not able to enjoy existing recreational facilities because ofvarious physical barriers. Lack of personnel
or agencies to cater for the special needs of certain groups to enable them to
enjoy these facilities.
of no access to public facilities, disabled persons have very limited
employment opportunities. Even if such opportunities were available, the
disabled are hampered in many ways from leading a full and meaningful life as
human beings in the society at large.
Reason For Recommendations
In making our recommendations, the
following should be noted :
recommendations are in keeping with the Rukun Negara and the tenets of the main
religions in Malaysia. In essence, they require that everyone living in the
country be extended the same respect and care as human beings.
proper access to public facilities, the disabled in particular would be able to
expand their scope of activities. This would increase their opportunities to
become self-reliant, productive and responsible citizens when they join the
main stream society as adults.
proper planning in the provision of public facilities, the people's tax money would be stretched in
order to benefit the largest number of persons in the community, i.e.
to increase the cost effectiveness of our public facilities.
other citizens, the disabled are expected to live up to their responsibilities
to the nation by paying taxes, etc. As such, their needs should be considered
in the planning of public facilities. This is their right as citizens, e.g. the
needs of the disabled should be considered inthe principle of averages when providing public facilities; generally,
consideration is given only to the able-bodied in such matters as the height of
telephones, switches, office counters, etc.
public facilities can be made accessible to most of the population at minimum
cost or no cost at all (or the costs would not be prohibitive) if the needs of
the disabled and other categories of persons are catered for right at the
beginning of planning.
should be standardized and wide enough for wheelchairs to negotiate. If
possible, only one kind of system i.e. the inter-locking block system, should
be used. This system prevents buckling, especially where there is uneven
settlement of the ground.
should be of specific surface texture while other textures should be used to
indicate pavement ending, entrance to driveway and junction of roads. The
surface of pavements should also be slip-resistant.
kerbs should not be more than 3 inches high. Short ramps must be provided at
strategic points where there are kerbs.
should be of gentle gradient. For long ramps, flat resting places should be
provided at intervals. Railings beside the ramps will also be very useful for
the aged and those who are physically weak.
drains, especially monsoon drains should be covered where possible. Drains
which are not convenient to cover should have railings along side. Railings
must be high enough so as not to trip people into the drains.
should be frequent checks to eliminate unnecessary obstacles and obstructions
should be placed at uniform heights and should curve outwards far enough to be
easily visible to passing motorists.
zebra crossings without indicating lights should be done away with, as they are
generally accepted as being dangerous.
in raised road dividers should be provided for wheelchair-users.
traffic lights with fail-safe system should be installed. Light and audio
signal should be connected in such a way that when either one fails, the other
will automatically cease to work. This is important for the blind. Different
sound texture of the audio signal rather than pitch or tunes should be used so
as to avoid confusion with car and motorcycle signals using same pitch signals
or tunes. This is useful for tone deaf people. Press-buttons at pedestrian
crossing lights should be located at reachable heights for wheelchair-users.
The surface area of the ground around such traffic light post should be
differently textured to facilitate easy location of the post by the blind.
pedestrian bridges are urgently needed for the blind, especially at multi-lane
crossing. Where possible, ramps should be incorporated into such bridges.
and bus-stops should line only the outer edge of pavements. Lamp-posts should
be differentiated from bus-stops in shape and structure to make them easy for
quick recognition by the blind. Trees should be pruned regularly or chopped
down if necessary to make street lamps more visible during dark nights;
alternatively, trees could be used to hang string lights. Railing at bus-stop
shelters should be rimmed both at the top as well as at the bottom. This will
give the blind sufficient warning with cane when probing the ground so as not
to bump suddenly into the top rim when walking a little too quickly.
beautifying roads, care should be taken to ensure that unnecessary obstacles
and obstructions do not pose hazards to pedestrians and motorists.
methods should be introduced to help certain groups of disabled to identify
buses. For the print handicapped, routes should be indicated not only in
writing but also through color codes. And such indication should be both in
front and at the side of the bus. All bus stops should have schedules
indicating the routes of buses which stop there. Such schedules should also be
of benefit to tourist. Doors of buses should be widened, and sufficiently wide
floor space opposite the bus door should be provided for wheelchairs and prams.
For the blind, it should be mandatory for bus conductors to inform waiting
blind passengers of the route of their buses.
the deaf are unable to communicate by telephone, they have to communicate in
person. Consideration should be given for them to have free or concessionary
bus fares. Deaf bus passengers could be easily identified by officially
drivers sometimes refuse to accept disabled passengers, especially
wheelchair-users. To stop such practice, disabled passengers must be protected
bus terminals should have personnel to help disabled passengers. It is essential
that such personnel understand sign-language.
Buildings and Public Access Buildings
buildings and offices, especially government buildings, should be located at
places of easier access for disabled persons.
of buildings should not be sharply angled or deeply recessed. Smooth rounded
corners are less injurious should a blind person accidentally bump into them. A
flat surfaced wall is easier to follow with a cane.
of drop-offs should be indicated by barricades. Steps should be regular in size
should have non-slip surfaces and should not be recessed as this cause
tripping. Ramps of gentle gradient must be provided as alternative to steps.
Lifts must be provided for wheelchair-users to move from floor to floor. Such
lifts must start from ground floor and reach all floors. Audio and tactile
indicators should be provided both inside and outside liftsto assist the blind. Lift buttons must be of
reachable height for wheelchair-users and those of short stature.
and exits of public buildings should be indicated by floor texture, bell or
or other indicators should be provided to guide the blind along passageways to
certain buildings. Posts should not be sharp-angled.
f)Informationcounters must be provided at strategic places
of complex buildings. Staff at such counters must have some training in helping
the aged, print-handicapped and disabled persons, particularly the deaf. At least
one counter in a row of counters should be made low enough for wheelchair-users
and those of short stature.
least one lavatory in each block of toilets should be of the sitting type and
must be big enough for wheelchair-users. The doors of such lavatory must be
wide enough for a wheelchair to enter. Railings must also be provided for those
who are physically weak. The floor surfaces of toilets must be of non-slip
offices, hospitals, banks and other relevant places should be equipped with
visual indicators to assist the deaf and the print-handicapped. This could for
example, help them to know when their names or numbers are called.
parking space must be given to disabled drivers.
booths should not be raised above ground level unless ramps are provided.
Telephones should be placed at reachable heights for wheelchair users and
people of short stature.
schemes should consider the needs of disabled persons. Consideration should be
given to such things as accessible external environment, availability of
facilities such as lifts, sufficiently spacious corridors, etc.
more enlightened approach should be adopted in considering applications for
housing loans from the disabled.
should be given to wheelchair-users for allocation of ground floor flats. Where
possible, provision should be made to allow modification of flats for disabled
needs of the disabled should be catered for in the same way that certain group
such as ex-service men are catered for; for example, regulation favoring
married couples for housing is disadvantages to the disabled. It is more
difficult for the disabled to get married without housing as security.
Social and Recreational Facilities
must be made towards preparing the disabled for independent living by providing
opportunities to acquire social and employment skills.
of the disabled should be catered for in employment policy of both government
and private sectors, i.e. MAMPU and Malaysian Employment Federation
respectively. Government special departments for disabled should set a good
example by adopting the policy of taking in disable workers if suitably
make government and other information centres accessible to the disabled,
public libraries should provide cassette facilities for the blind and
structural facilities for those on wheelchair.
of the disabled should be considered when planning such facilities as museums,
zoos, parks, recreational facilities in housing schemes, hotel accommodation,
etc. A list of these facilities should be complied and made available to the
authorities and private bodies should incorporate relevant items of legislation
on the disabled into their standard forms and contracts. This would be a great
help in future development programs.
plans should not be approved by government authorities unless adequate
provision has been made for the needs of the disabled in accordance with the
pointing out the problems of access, we have shown how thedisabled in particular are affected. In
addition, we have shown that in a general sense, many categories of people in
the community at large, other than the disabled, are or can be affected by the
problems of access. For example, obstacles along public roads and pavements,
and the lack of ramps at strategic points; besides posing problems to the blind
and wheelchair-users, are also barriers to workers pushing heavy trolleys,
mothers needing to take their babies in prams, and children crossing the
most of the obstacles we have mentioned are of a physical nature, these
barriers also occur very often as a result of lack of understanding on the part
of the authorities and organizations providing the social or public facilities.
disability knows no bounds in terms of race, creed or community. Anyone could
bestruck by disability at any time in
one's life. It would bee unwise and inconvenient to wait until then to look for
solution to the problems of access.
many cases regarding the provision of public facilities, inadequate knowledge
can be overcome if there is accurate information as well as legislation
achieved through sufficient consultation with the disabled and the proper
enforcement of such legislation.
problems touched on and the recommendations we have made are by no means
exhaustive. Nevertheless, we hope that in our initial attempts at dealing with
the problems of access, this document will serve as a useful guide.
(Tan Kuan Aw)
Society of the Blind in
Persatuan Orang Cacat
Sports and Recreation for
Y.M.C.A. Deaf Club
Pertubuhan Orang Cacat
Federation School for the
St. Nicholas' School and
Home for the Blind
Rumah Amal Cheshire,
1 those who cannot read prints because
of lack of education or those with physical or neurological defects,such as, dislexica.
2Please refer to attached Photostatted copy of IYDP pamphlet.