By Puteri Sabira
The new Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) service may have received an early positive response from users, but there is still much room for improvement, especially for disabled persons, who have expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of accessibility.
Among the grouses were that the staff at the stations were not trained to respond to the Help Button, and a lack of attention to detail, which could endanger anyone on a wheelchair or with a disability.
Disabled activist Anthony Thanasayan told The Rocket recently that there is a lack of thought in public transportation planning, based on his own difficult experience while trying to take the MRT to the Taman Tun Dr Ismail station.
He pointed out that the restrooms were not user-friendly for the disabled, and that not all handicapped groups would be able to use them.
“The restroom could have been better designed to allow a variety of disabled group to use them. For example, the alarm system was put up in the wrong place and I could not even reach the button to call for help,” he said.
Furthermore, he added that the staff at the stations were not properly trained to handle the needs of the disabled.
“The Help Button pillars are helpful for us, but we have tried to call them so many times and the response was vague and rude,” he said, “Those operating it were totally unskilled and we cant really rely on them for assistance.”
Thanasayan also said there were small details which, when ignored, could seriously harm someone in a wheelchair.
He pointed out that the doors to the train marked with the wheelchair logo were actually, the wrong doors to lead to the wheelchair access area.
(In trains, there are usually spaces where wheelchair users can ‘park’ their wheelchairs for easy access in and out of the train and onto the platform).
“They should not let this happen, because this mistake could put us at risk,” he added.
He also expressed his disappointment that there was a lack of enforcement by station management on disabled parking lots.
“At the TTDI station, I found that non-disabled cars sandwiched in wheelchair- reserved parking,” he said, adding that at the Sungai Buloh station, more than a dozen non-disabled vehicles were parked in handicapped lots.
“I am really sad that the planners and implementers often overlook our needs,” he said.
He said, even though public transportation for the disabled is slightly better than previous years, the flaws need swift attention to ensure the safety of the passengers, and added that public transportation in the country was still not up to par to catering for commuters with disabilities.
He also said there must be an urgent need for awareness and greater understanding of people with disabilities.
He added this would allow more equal opportunities and establish an inclusive society.
“The lack of suitable public transportation for disabled citizens remains one of the most neglected issues in the nation,” he said. -The Rocket