Friday, April 13, 2007

Still working

Time: 18:05


Mmmph. I have a lot more off days now than previously and I'm fresh from another day off yesterday. Had an exclusive interview with a survivor from the Greek cruise ship Sea Diamond which sank on April 6.

How come I'm feeling rather harried and worn?

Must be that final report. And everyone around me have different formats for that report making me 100x worried and paranoid. I, afterall, am the only one under my supervisor. Everyone else was under someone else. And my supervisor was not much of a help because she's too busy with her students' final year projects and her own PhD work.

My training ended April 7 and my one thought was, how did three months pass us by this quickly? It's unbelievable we've gone through 14 weeks. FOURTEEN WEEKS, gawd. And never did I regret extending my training...I like working here.

*To be continued*

*Continued april 15 @ 11:55*

It's a Sunday and I'm at the huge office with the total of 5 people. Left rather abruptly on Fri to go home. I got a byline for my interview, yo. Anyway, I was saying, I like working in this line simply because with all the bad people I've met, I met really, really good ones too.

It's a blessing as I get to widen my social circles and see people I normally only read about in the papers or online. This fact was illustrated yet again when I came back from my first assignment and Lam sent me on my way to Jalan Gasing, PJ with Ivan to yet another.

It was to an emergency press conference by the Barrier-Free Environmental and Accessible Transport Group or BEAT, who were, well, "extremely disappointed" by Penang State Local Government and Traffic Management Committee Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan's statement that RapidPenang will not introduce special buses for wheelchair users.

I'd use the word enraged myself, but mind you, I am not very diplomatic.

It's just yet another nonsensical reminder of living in Malaysia where human rights and equality is lip service. The thing is, you can't see disabled persons as people on wheelchairs, can you? They are like you and everyone on the streets. Taxpayers! PEOPLE (with stories to tell), dammit! Same rights to get on a damn bus!

BEAT said despite assurance from other ministers that the needs and interests of disabled people will be considered and that new buses in Penang will be "disabled friendly", in the end, RapidPenang is puchasing 120 buses that are not for everyone.

And anyone who've been on buses like ours will testify to the difficulty of climbing in and out of the buses. Although I've been blessed with a car and do not take public transport as often, I remember with every single bus, you gotta make a huge step up onto the buses. And if you're as short, heavy and klutzy as I am, you've probably slipped once or twice heaving yourself into a bus. And there's no wide spaces for wheelchair users to park themselves and within the buses, there's another huge step somewhere midway across the bus to the back seats.

I do use KTM, LRT and monorail often, and I don't think I've really noticed if they're disabled friendly. I know awhile ago KTM Kepong built a ramp up outside the station, and the other side is strictly a slope; no steps. Truth be told I don't think I've ever seen a wheelchair user on trains, and to be politically incorrect, you'd notice them if you see them.

My friend in London said they're trying to make the city more disabled friendly, and in his words, "they can drop the front of the bus down to let wheelchairs on".
In reference to the tube in London, he said, "only has some newer parts of the line with wheelchair access. Jubille line from westminster > stratford [but] all the rest have little or no wheelchair access. its almost impossible, the tunnels are so small". Another in Singapore said, "they have spaces for wheel chair [in buses], but have steps so technically, wheelchairs cant go on unless they're folded".

Hmm, okay.

The BEAT statement was written by Peter Tan, a wheelchair user whom Darlene had blogged about. Darlene and Meikeng met him in Midvalley and I didn't see what was the hype until I met him at the press conference.

He is a charismatic man and an excellent writer.
And I, Pui Yee, do not, I repeat, do not throw those two compliments around. I consider myself honoured that I have had a chance to talk with him, albeit briefly, and also Christine Lee, BEAT's coordinator, a beautiful, soft-spoken woman (and may I confess I stared at and admired her eye-shadow application skills). I'd want to know and talk more with them in future too. The issues they fight for, their lives and who they are as people, as persons. Individuals.

Anyways, Peter wrote the statement and here's some excerpts:

BEAT would like to point out that wheelchair users do not need special buses. Accessible buses can take wheelchair users and the public at the same time. In the Asia-Pacific accessible buses are already widely used in Japan and Australia to serve not only wheelchair users but the general public. These non-step buses are also convenient for senior citizens, pregnant women and adults with prams as the floor of the buses are flushed with the height of the bus stops.

It makes no sense to deny wheelchair users the right to use public transport at a time when the country is celebrating the 50th year of independence and it is ironic that we will soon have a Malaysian in the international space station 250km above us but a wheelchair user cannot even go from his house in Gelugor to Gurney Drive in Penang that is only about 25km away.

It is noted that many barriers to transportation continue to exist, preventing the full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in society. Willing disabled persons are unable to work because of inadequate accessible public transport in this country. By not providing these buses, wheelchair users are further marginalised from mainstream society.

Cost should not be used as a justification to not bring in accessible buses as by saying that, is Dr Teng saying that the needs of disabled persons are secondary?

We should learn from past mistakes. The disabled community protested the inaccessability of STAR-LRT to them. 13 years on, STAR-LRT is still inaccessible to wheelchair users.

BEAT calls on relevant authorities and RapidPenang to seriously reconsider their decision. The needs of disabled persons should not take a backseat. It is an apparent act of discrimination to deny Penangites [their] rights to accessible public transport, irrespective of the person's condition.

BEAT is a coalition of 16 NGOs of disabled persons in Malaysia advocating for the equalisation of opportunities for disabled persons


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