By PRIYA MENON
TO an able-bodied person, the so-called toilets for the disabled in Malaysian buildings may seem appropriate for the elderly and the disabled. The truth is most of the facilities are actually far from adequate.
For many years, the disabled community have had to put up with the lack of tolerance the society has shown them. They live in the shadows and come out only when necessary wearing adult diapers to cope throughout the day.
All this because the toilets have not been built to accommodate their needs, forcing them to rush home every time.
“Most buildings have toilets for the disabled on only one floor in the entire building compared with the other toilets.
“It is ironic actually, they ensure that disabled visitors look all over the place for the toilet while the able-bodied are able to walk into any toilet at their convenience,” Malaysian Animal Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association president Anthony Thanayasan said.
According to Anthony, many of the disabled have weak bladders and bowels, forcing them to visit the toilets more often than others.
He added that wearing diapers for too long could also lead to urinary tract infections, one of the top killers for the disabled.
Independent Living and Training Centre presidnt Francis Silva said many of the disabled were ashamed to leave their homes due to the lack of toilet facilities.
“We have been put in embarrassing situations many times. I was invited to a function where no toilets for the disabled were provided. After searching for more than an hour, I found one and had to lie down on the floor to proceed with my task,” he said.
For both Anthony, who is paralysed from the waist down, and Francis, who is paralysed from neck down, some of the most horrible toilets for the disabled are in government buildings.
Aghast: Anthony (right) and Francis were livid to find a shower curtain being used as the ‘door’ for a toilet for the disabled at the Social Welfare Department.
“They build toilets with outdated specifications from the Public Works Department. None of them can be used in this day and age,” Anthony said during a spot check to several locations in Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur.
The first stop was the Petaling Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) Civic Centre where the toilets were not up to par, but proved to be better than the rest of the toilets seen that day.
The next stop was the MBPJ Swimming Pool in Kelana Jaya. His first step into the centre proved to be difficult as there were no ramps to assist the wheelchair-bound Francis. The guards and officers had to carry him into the lobby but Francis had to give up on his check after coming to a second set of stairs leading to the pools and the toilets.
“There are no ramps for us to move freely into this building. Swimming is a great therapy for the disabled and yet they have deprived us of this facility,” Francis said.
The team then headed to the Pusat Bandar Damansara National Registration and Immi-gration departments and were shocked to note that no toilet facilities for the disabled could be found. When asked, a cleaner said the disabled toilet was located several blocks away.
Tight squeeze: Francis faced difficulty getting into the toilets at the Civic Centre in PJ.
From there, they moved on to the KL Social Welfare Department at the Grand Seasons Avenue in Jalan Pahang.
Anthony and Francis were livid to find a shower curtain being used as the door of toilet for the disabled. According to an official from the department who declined to be named, they could not renovate the toilets because they were only tenants and proper toilets were available on the ground floor. While this was true, Francis argued that the older generation and the disabled were forced to come down nine floors to use the toilet.
“Toilets for the disabled in Malaysia should have several things, including a sliding door, space, a toilet bowl with the right height, a siren, an emergency bell pull, the mirror at a lower angle and proper flush handles,” added Anthony, who is also an MBPJ councillor.
He added that the toilets should be built after consulting a disabled person who is knowledgeable and the toilets should be built for those with profound disabilities in mind.
Over the years, they have been fed with many excuses and both believe the excuses can no longer be accepted.
“Anyone can become disabled one day. They think it is only a small community but according to research by the United Nations, by the year 2035, 10% of the world population will be the elderly and, by 2040, there will be more elderly than children,” Anthony said.
Francis added that the government needed to look into these facilities, especially in key government offices and areas like hospitals and police stations.
“The planning should be done now for the future in order to accommodate the growing number of disabled and the elderly,” he said.