November 18, 2011 17:31 PM
Call For More 'Bite' In Disabled Persons Act
This is the first of two articles on issues faced by the disabled.
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 (Bernama) -- Ahmad Jasmon, who is a disabled and uses a Wheelchair, wanted to withdraw some money from the automated teller machine (ATM) at a shopping complex here.
"As there was a queue, I didn't mind waiting in line. But, to my shock, when my turn arrived to use the ATM, the person behind me tried to jump queue as if I was non-existent in front of the machine.
"I was disgusted. How could the man have no respect for a person queuing up in front of him. Furthermore the person in front of him is a handicapped guy in a wheelchair, so it is ridiculous if he did not notice me," Ahmad said.
"If the able-bodied refuse to assist the handicapped, it is alright with me, but discrimination is something else," he added.
This writer had the same experience when he tried to withdraw some money from the ATM at a hospital here. According to this experience, some people pay no regard to those in wheelchairs. These situations happen in everyday life.
The is an example of some of the issues faced by the disabled, or "OKU" (as they are known) in this country.
There have been many complaints about facilities for the handicapped being abused by able-bodied persons.
Wahab Jamil, who lost a leg in a road crash several years ago, had this to say:
"I have a wife who is also disabled and needs to use a wheelchair. Shopping for groceries at many shops is almost impossible for us, as there are steps to climb. The only placed for us to shop are hypermarkets, where it is easy for the disabled to go in.
"Hypermarkets provide ample parking spaces for the handicapped but these spaces are often abused by other motorists, despite signs placed by supermarket management.
"Most of the time, I have to park far away from the hypermarket entrance before wheeling my wife into the premises. After we finish shopping, I have to make a few trips to wheel my wife and the goods that we bought back to our car.
"It would be much easier if we were able to use the parking spaces provided, as they are located near the entrance to the hypermarket. Sadly, these parking spaces are being abused by those who are ignorant about facilities provided for the handicapped," he lamented.
Not only parking spaces are abused. Toilets that have the "man on a wheelchair" sign also are abused by able-bodied persons.
THE ACT FOR DISABLED PERSONS
Parliament passed the Persons with Disabilities Act on Dec 24, 2007 (Act 685). The Act was gazetted on Jan 24, 2008 and came into force on July 7 the same year.
This act provides for the registration, protection, rehabilitation, development and well-being of the handicapped. It converts the concept of protecting the disabled from welfare-based to rights-based.
The Act accords equal opportunities and participation for the disabled, on par with that of other members of the society.
But does the Act provide enough protection regarding facilities specially provided for the handicapped? Is there any penalty for those found abusing these facilities?
Many complaints over the abuse of facilities for the disabled have been heard.
What do those who have knowledge about this Act (Peoples With Disabilities Act or PWD Act) say?
According to lawyers, the PWD Act 2008 is purely an administrative act and is toothless, as there is no punishment for non-compliance or acts of discrimination.
Law practitioner N. Surenthiran said there are no penalties for those found abusing the facilities.
"For the time being, those who use parking bays, toilets and other facilities for the disabled can get away without any penalty.
"The authorities want to educate the public but some appear to have ignored what the authorities want for the needs of the handicapped," he said.
Surenthiran said the "no smoking in public" regulation has been effective against those who smoke in public places.
"Why not impose a penalty on those found abusing the facilities for the Handicapped, such as toilets and parking places? This way, people cannot blatantly disregard the law," he said.
Social activist Gurmukh Singh said the purpose of the PWD Act is not to punish but to provide education for the offenders.
"However penalties for parties not in compliance are stated in other acts, regulations and by-laws," he added.