Trip to Land Office turns into a nightmare.
I HAVE always been a strong supporter of public awareness, especially when it comes to people with disabilities and the many unnecessary barriers placed before us that prevent us from living a normal life.
Whilst most of my disabled (and even able-bodied) colleagues had at times run out of patience when trying to educate the non-disabled about the needs of the handicapped, I’ve always managed to muster extra patience when dealing with those on the opposite end of the spectrum. Not, however, last Thursday at the Land Office in Gombak, Selangor.
What transpired there was shocking and unacceptable.
A disabled couple – the gentleman, paralysed from his neck down, and his wife, a paraplegic – dropped by the Land Office just before noon. Instead of being attended to immediately, they were largely ignored.
When the flustered couple insisted on seeing the district officer, they were told he was at a meeting in his office. They were asked to go home, make an appointment, and come back another day.
Did these people bother to consider the difficulties the couple faced getting to the Land Office?
According to the couple, the district officer went out at lunchtime and did not even bother to see them. Nobody was assigned to deal with their problem, either.
Things went from bad to worse during their three-hour ordeal.
Even the couple’s personal helpers were not able to help them overcome the obstacles at the Land Office building that ironically bore “disabled-friendly” signage.
The designated carpark for the disabled was too far from the entrance of the building. It was uncovered and visitors in crutches would have a hard time walking to the building.
To exacerbate matters, the handicapped are forced to cross an internal traffic of vehicles. Imagine how scary this can be for someone in crutches or in a wheelchair.
The only carpark that was next to the entrance was reserved for the district officer. It was ironically placed next to the wheelchair ramp.
The wheelchair ramp was much too steep and unsafe for use. It clearly did not follow building guidelines. What’s more, the ramp was wet and slippery, no thanks to water leaking from the roof.
Then came the nightmare of nightmares, especially for women with disabilities.
There was no disabled-friendly loo in the women’s restroom. Instead, disabled women would have to enter the men’s toilet, in full view of the urinals, before they can get into the cubicle to answer nature’s call.
I can’t imagine how an important government building such as the Land Office could subject disabled women to such a violation of their rights and dignity.
When we asked the authorities how they could allow such a thing to happen, they told us the building was about 30 years old and that they lacked funds to provide disabled-friendly toilets for women.
With the number of disabled persons on the increase and Malaysia moving towards an ageing nation status by 2035, we need to ask ourselves: how long are we going to keep on giving the same old excuses of old buildings and lack of funds to keep out a significant number of people who have been wrongfully marginalised?
Is it really a lack of funds or is it just sheer neglect in looking into what is truly important in our policies and where our spending should go?