Worst Toilet Found In Welfare Department
RECENTLY a small group of us came together to attempt the unimaginable – check out the public toilets in town!
We all know the kind of nightmarish encounters such a task would, more often than not, entail. Un-flushed toilet bowls, broken or missing taps and toilet seats, tissues that are nowhere in sight; you get the picture.
However, fortunately there was a special twist in our particular mission.
We were – thank heavens – to only look out for disabled-friendly loos.
Our target: some of the most important government buildings that the members of the public frequent.
And so an unlikely pair of journalists – a writer by the name of Priya Menon and Munirah Muzamer, a photographer – together with another wheelchair user like me, Francis Siva, we took off to our destinations.
Francis and I made a sort of a perfect combination between us because he was paralysed from his neck down and I, from the waist below.
Our feedback towards the exercise would be more comprehensive with our varied and specific needs, we thought. As council members of the city of Petaling Jaya’s (MBPJ) disability technical committee, our first stop was naturally at the PJ Civic Centre.
Needless to say the architects who designed this landmark building in its original form had obviously never dreamt of disabled and elderly people patronising the building.
And although years later a ramp was constructed outside and inside the building, no attention was given to the restroom even though a wider cubicle of sorts that can squeeze in wheelchairs are available both at the men’s and women’s section.
To access the restrooms, however, one had to contend with a step with his or her wheelchair until recently, when a ramp was installed.
But sad to say the ramp is still not suitable because of its steepness.
The good news, however, is that planning has already been underway at MBPJ over the past several months to overcome all the challenges presented by the older designs.
The Civic centre will be undergoing some major renovations very soon where all the facilities will be revised to become more user-friendly.
For the first time in the building’s history, a special place in one of the best spots in the auditorium where performances are held has been specially reserved so that at least two wheelchairs can be “parked” there.
Our second stop at the Kelana Jaya Swimming Pool was most frustrating as wheelchairs had to be carried up and down a flight of steep steps to get to the pool area.
Once inside, there were more steps to the changing rooms and toilets.
What is ironical is that I am told that a few disabled swimming championships have been held at the very pool where makeshift ramps and other alternatives were included to facilitate wheelchair-using athletes.
It is high time that MBPJ took up the challenge to overcome the various obstacles in the building to incorporate permanent structures so that even the ordinary disabled member of the public can use the pool without difficulty.
For those who are unfamiliar, people who are paralysed in their legs can still swim with their hands. It is not only an excellent all-rounder exercise for them but it also provides a great source of therapy by allowing them to move about in the pool without the need for wheelchairs.
At the national registration and immigration offices in Damansara in Kuala Lumpur, we made the shocking discovery that no handicapped toilets could be found.
The only one that they said was accessible was too far away for us to even try because it was several blocks away. But an even bigger horror awaited us at the KL Social Welfare Department which was located at the ninth floor of the Grand Seasons Avenue in Jalan Pahang.
Here is where people in wheelchairs and the elderly frequent to get aid from the government.
We couldn’t believe our eyes when we came across the toilets for disabled men and women in separate sections that used mere shower curtains as a door and to make up one side of the walls. There was no way that a person using it could not expose himself or herself to the able-bodied others in the restrooms.
There was hardly any room to manoeuvre a wheelchair and no grab bars in sight posing an extremely dangerous situation of handicapped users falling down and injuring themselves.
I couldn’t believe that here was an institution that was supposed to be caring and looking into the needs of the disabled – and yet, obviously having no qualms about allowing such a situation to go on for several years. When asked, their reply was “they couldn’t do anything about it as the building didn’t belong to them”.
However, as soon as I reached home I received a piece of good news on the telephone from the top management of the building.
They had learnt of our visit at their premise and informed me that a proper toilet will be built for the disabled at both the men’s and women’s section.
The toilets should ready by this week.