November 18, 2011 20:47 PM
Public Should Know The Rights Of The Disabled
By Zulkiple Ibrahim
This is the last of two articles on issues faced by the disabled.
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 (Bernama) -- "We have put up notices advising the public that the designated parking bays are only for the disabled. But only few pay heed to our advice," said a management officer of a hypermarket in Rawang.
"Our security guards cannot man these parking bays all the time. We only hope the public know the rights of the disabled. Our last resort could be clamping the wheels of the vehicles that disregard the notice we up."
The officer was queried on why the able-bodied were abusing the parking bays reserved for the disabled there.
This writer later went to observe whether the abuse occurs at other shopping complexes in the city.
A shopping complex at The Curve in Mutiara Damansara warns the abusers of such parking bays that their vehicles will be clamped. Cars without disabled-driver stickers will be clamped if the vehicles are found in spaces reserved for handicapped drivers.
In Bandar Utama, the management of a shopping complex posts security guards at the parking bays. The situation is similar at a hypermarket in Kota Damansara.
A public medical centre in the city also does the same. Parking attendants are deployed to advise vehicle owners. Those who flout the rules and still leave their vehicles in the parking bays reserved for the disabled have to pay fines for the wheel clamps to be removed from their vehicles.
Mary Anthony (not her real name), who herself has a bone disorder and walks with a limp, has a special-needs child and is among those who feel that some people are still ignorant of the rights of the disabled.
"I have a five-year-old boy who has Down syndrome," Mary said. "Over the last couple of years, I have found myself getting more disheartened every time I see able-bodied people abusing facilities reserved for disabled people.
"One day I politely asked a driver who parked in a disabled bay if he was disabled but his reaction was disappointing. He shrugged his shoulders and said that he would only be in the space for a few minutes.
"At least he said something. Others would give me a stern look and simply walk away. Obviously they had no regard for the handicapped.
"After our shopping trip, the driver's car was still parked there," she said disgustedly.
Do the handicapped feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens? People such as Mary think so.
She said at times she feels very hurt when she goes to public places.
"Some stare at me as if I am a monster or an alien from another planet. It hurts when others treat you like a second-class citizen in your own country," she said.
This writer went to different shopping complexes several weeks ago and on two separate occasions politely asked the person queuing up in front of the toilet reserved for the disabled whether they were disabled.
The response this writer received both times was disgraceful.
"Are you handicapped, too?" One lady retorted and walked away. This writer then wondered whether she had failed to notice that this writer was in a wheelchair.
On another occasion, this writer wanted to use a toilet for the disabled. Somebody else was using the cubicle at that time.
When a man came out, this writer asked whether he was disabled.
"So what?" said the man in an angry tone. "There is nobody else using so I decided to use it. You can ask the management to take action."
Social activist Gurmukh Singh has several questions for the physically-able: "If there are queues for the toilets and a disabled toilet is vacant, should you use it?
"If the toilets are upstairs and the disabled toilet is downstairs and vacant, should you use it?
"Is the Persons with Disabilities Act toothless?"
He said it has been more than three years since the Persons With Disabilities Act came into force.
"The act is good in terms of educating the public. However, it needs more bite to ensure that facilities for the handicapped are not abused," he said.