Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gurney Paragon Mall Penang (Part 1)

I checked this mall on the 26th Aug 2012. As expected from all new public buildings, basic facilities for wheelchairs access were there. (I believe mainly because of the requirements of the Uniform Building By-Laws.)  Again as expected, the disabled access were poorly designed.

The first thing I notice was that steps were everywhere. There were steps at the door of every shops and all of the nice open-air eating areas. I am not anti-steps but surely ramps could be built beside some of these steps. The steps also made the place very unfriendly to young children. So parents please watch your children when you bring them there!

The best feature of this mall was the gentle ramp at the entrance. But I could not find any disabled people's car park near there. (See photo below.)

However, not a ramps were good. The one leading to the toilet was a bit too steep for me. (See photo below.)

I also found the ramp in the photo below to be so steep that it may cause a wheelchair-user to tilt backward and fall. The gradient was very far away from Malaysian Standard's 1 to 12.

The toilet was reasonably spacious and a flip-up bar was there, correctly installed. But they forgot to place a mirror there. (See photo below.) 

I also found the light switch outside the toilet to be too high for me.

Due to time constrain, I did not have the opportunity to check first floor. If you have any information or photos about the access there, please feel free to post them as comments, or email me with short descriptions so that I can post them in this blog. Remember the purpose of this blog is to share information with other wheelchair-users.

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



Access to public facilities are denied not only to the disabled but also to many sections of the general public. The problems of  access 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,1  young 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 amenities.

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 : -

1.    to 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,

2.    to show why the problems of access must be overcome and that disabled citizens have basic rights to enjoy public facilities,

3.    to make suitable recommendations for implementation by the government and other bodies.

The Need to Resolve the Problems

1,    Government authorities have often overlooked the problems of the disabled because:-

a)    it 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.

      Such 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 in  1958 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.

      Prof. 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 in  Peninsular 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 of  Welfare 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 physically weak.

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 this country.

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.

b)    It 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.

2.    Solving 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.

      Ramps 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.

3.    It 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.

4.    Making 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 rehabilitating them.

5.    Extra 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.

      It 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 :-

I,    Public roads
II,   Public transportation
III,  Public buildings and Public Access Buildings
IV,   Housing
V,    Social and recreational facilities.

The Problem

I,    Public Roads

      Pavements and Sidewalks

a)    Rough, gravely, bumpy and uneven pavements or sidewalks pose problems, especially for the orthopaedically disabled.

b)    Narrow pavements and high raised kerbs are problems for wheelchair-users.

c)    No 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.

Street Furniture

a)    High road-dividers make it impossible for wheelchair-users to cross the street,

b)    Lack of overhead pedestrian bridges, modified traffic lights, etc., make road traveling dangerous for the blind,

c)    Lack of consistency in positioning of street furniture such as bus-stops, lamp-posts, billboards, sign-boards, etc., are a problem to the blind,

d)    Various objects and structures such as those put up for street beautification can prove hazardous for the blind,

e)    Lack of legislation or its enforcement concerning provision and standardization of street furniture, traffic regulations, etc., pose a problem for the disabled in general.

II,   Public Transportation
a)    Wheelchair-users have great difficulties in using buses, the cheapest means of transport in this country.   

b)    Refusal by taxi drivers to accept disabled passengers, especially wheel-chair-users, is a problem for the mobility of the disabled.

c)    The blind and the print handicapped have difficulties in identifying the right buses.
III,  Public Buildings and Public Access Buildings

      These include government offices, post officers, banks, community libraries, public halls, supermarkets, cinemas, theaters, hotels, etc.

a)    Key offices and public facilities located away from bus routes, requiring long and tiring walks from people on crutches, are a problem to the disabled.

b)    Most big buildings are entered by way of an imposing flight of steps, making them inaccessible to wheelchair-users.

c)    Some multi-storeyed buildings do not have lifts that start from ground floor or reach the top floor.

d)    Split-level buildings without lifts or ramps are very difficult for wheelchair-users.

e)    Public 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)    Parking  facilities do not cater for needs of certain disabled groups.

g)    Deeply recessed and sharp-angled walls, etc., pose traveling hazards for the blind.

h)    There is a lack of distinct indication to help the blind identify entrances and exits of buildings.

I)    High 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.

k)    The lack a of visual communication system in government offices, banks and hospitals, etc., make it difficult for the deaf.

IV,   Housing

a)    There 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 wheelchair-users.

b)    Disabled persons have difficulty in purchasing their own homes from the government or private sector for reasons such as low income, prejudice, difficulty in getting loans.

c)    The presence of dangerous obstacles like open drains, big drop-offs, badly packed vehicles, etc., in housing areas impede the mobility of the disabled.

d)    There 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 users.

e)    Lack of provision to allow for modifications of flats for the use of  the disabled, make it very difficult for wheelchair-users to reside in flats.

V,    Social and Recreational Facilities

      These include government services, communication and information services, telephone booths, recreational facilities and other public utilities and amenities.

a)    Limited 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 services.

b)    Limited access  to information services and libraries which do not cater for the special needs of certain categories of  people such as the blind and orthopaedically disabled.

c)    Telephone booths are inaccessible either because the booths are placed above ground or phones are placed at unreachable heights for wheelchair-users.

d)    Certain group are not able to enjoy existing recreational facilities because of  various physical barriers. Lack of personnel or agencies to cater for the special needs of certain groups to enable them to enjoy these facilities.

e)    Because 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 :

1)    Our 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.

2)    With 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.

3)    With 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.

4)    Like 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 in  the 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.

5)    Usually, 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.


1,    Public Roads

      Pavements and Sidewalks

a)    Pavements 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.

b)    Pavements 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.

c)    All kerbs should not be more than 3 inches high. Short ramps must be provided at strategic points where there are kerbs.

d)    Ramps 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.
e)    Manholes, 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.

f)    There should be frequent checks to eliminate unnecessary obstacles and obstructions on pavements.

      Street Furniture

a)    Sign-board should be placed at uniform heights and should curve outwards far enough to be easily visible to passing motorists.

b)    Intermittent zebra crossings without indicating lights should be done away with, as they are generally accepted as being dangerous.

c)    Gaps in raised road dividers should be provided for wheelchair-users.

d)    Modified 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.

e)    Overhead pedestrian bridges are urgently needed for the blind, especially at multi-lane crossing. Where possible, ramps should be incorporated into such bridges.

f)    Lamp-posts 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.

g)    In beautifying roads, care should be taken to ensure that unnecessary obstacles and obstructions do not pose hazards to pedestrians and motorists.

II,   Public Transportation

a)    Certain 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.

b)    Since 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 recognized badges.

c)    Taxi drivers sometimes refuse to accept disabled passengers, especially wheelchair-users. To stop such practice, disabled passengers must be protected by legislation.

d)    Major bus terminals should have personnel to help disabled passengers. It is essential that such personnel understand sign-language.

III,  Public Buildings and Public Access Buildings

a)    Key buildings and offices, especially government buildings, should be located at places of easier access for disabled persons.

b)    Walls 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.

c)    Warning 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 lifts  to assist the blind. Lift buttons must be of reachable height for wheelchair-users and those of short stature.

d)    Entrances and exits of public buildings should be indicated by floor texture, bell or other identifications.

e)    Railings or other indicators should be provided to guide the blind along passageways to certain buildings. Posts should not be sharp-angled.

f)    Information  counters 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.

g)    At 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 material.

h)    Government 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.

i)    Special parking space must be given to disabled drivers.

j)    Telephone 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.

IV,   Housing

a)    Housing 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.

b)    A more enlightened approach should be adopted in considering applications for housing loans from the disabled.

c)    Preference 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 residents.

d)    The 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.

V,    Social and Recreational Facilities

a)    Efforts must be made towards preparing the disabled for independent living by providing opportunities to acquire social and employment skills.

b)    Needs 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 qualified.

c)    To 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.

d)    Needs 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 disabled.

VI,   Legislation

a)    Local 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.

b)    Construction plans should not be approved by government authorities unless adequate provision has been made for the needs of the disabled in accordance with the above recommendations.


I,    In pointing out the problems of access, we have shown how the  disabled 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 street.

II,   While 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.

III,  Moreover, disability knows no bounds in terms of race, creed or community. Anyone could be  struck 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.

IV,   In 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.

V,    The 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)
    Chief Coordinator


   (Peter Chin)


   (John Kim)                                         

ORGANIZATION                                    REPRESENTATIVE                POSITION

Society of the Blind in

Persatuan Orang Cacat
Anggota Malaysia

Sports and Recreation for
Disabled Persons

Y.M.C.A. Deaf Club

Pertubuhan Orang Cacat

Federation School for the

St. Nicholas' School and
Home for the Blind

Handicapped Children's

Rumah Amal Cheshire,
Pulau Pinang

1 those who cannot read prints because of lack of education or those with physical or neurological defects,      such as, dislexica.
2  Please refer to attached Photostatted copy of IYDP pamphlet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How to enter Penang Times Square

A friend wanted to know how a wheelchair-user can enter Penang Time Square from road side. Here is how. (Please follow the numbers in the photos below.)

1 is a probable drop off point where wheelchair user can come down from a bus or car. Go to 2 and turn into 3. This leads to the open air car park.

If one goes from 3 to 4, then one would see the main entrance of Time Square. Unfortunately, there is no ramp at the entrance. (We have to work at this problem.)

A wheelchair user needs to go from 4 to 5 to 6, 7, 8 before he / she can see the ramp. It is a small and narrow ramp, often hidden behind many motorcycles. 

Wheelchair access is manageable though not good after one reach point 9. I hope this is useful to the friend who requested for this information.