KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has a long way to go to catch up with Thailand and Singapore in becoming disabled-friendly.
Full attention has yet to be given to the disabled, with many still having trouble parking their vehicles in buildings or travelling freely, unlike in neighbouring countries.
Despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention for the Rights of People with Disability in 2008, Malaysia has little to show for the points made at the convention.
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said Malaysia would ratify the convention soon.
By ratifying it, Malaysia would be duty-bound to comply with convention provisions.
Chew said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil would make an announcement on the matter soon.
For the time being, she said the onus was on the local councils to make sure that the disabled had a "barrier-free environment".
"Most important are the local authorities. Although the government has good laws and bylaws, the lack of enforcement on the ground, especially by local authorities, makes it difficult for us to achieve the target.
"I'd like to suggest that the Department of Standards or those involved possibly set up a lobby group to push the authorities."
Chew also said district officers, as well as town and city planners, could introduce laws to help the disabled.
"If we manage to educate them and inculcate the culture of being considerate towards the disabled, then it will be easier for us to make things happen," she said after opening the National Conference on Accessibility and Universal Design: Implications for Public Transport and the Built Environment yesterday.
At present, she said there was no law to make it compulsory for buildings to be disabled-friendly.
"I'd urge companies to cooperate with us by renovating their buildings to create a barrier-free environment, especially shopping complexes, office blocks and business centres."
The conference was organised by the ministry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
UNDP resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Kamal Malhotra, said Malaysia had done well by endorsing the People with Disabilities Act 2008.
However, he said, Kuala Lumpur needed to take a more proactive step to ratify the convention.
So far, 144 countries have signed up while 80 have ratified it.
"Signing it is the first step. But there is some distance to go. Legislation itself is not enough. Hopefully, in a year, especially once the convention is ratified, Malaysia will be much closer to the different aspects of the convention."