The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy notes with concern the inclusion of wheelchairs and mobility scooters in a wide-ranging ban on the use of micro-mobility vehicles on roads as recently announced by Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong.
These policies will significantly affect the disabled community which depend on these devices for their mobility. Unfortunately, the restrictions and limitations introduced by the new regulations appear to reflect limited understanding and lack of consultation with the disabled community.
Were the disabled community consulted prior to the inclusion of their personal mobility devices or aids in this ban?
Living with a disability is a fact of life for many Malaysians. Personal mobility is something that the able-bodied often take for granted. For a person with disabilities, particularly those with impaired movement, the ability to move independently, without assistance from others, and to participate in social activities, is vital for better health and improved quality of life.
Wheelchairs are not only used indoors, but also outdoors.
The reality of roads, city planning, and public transportation in Malaysia is far from ideal. Not all persons with disability have access to private vehicles that are adapted for their use to get from point A to B. They often depend on themselves.
People with disabilities are using their personal mobility devices such as mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs to move from their homes to nearby shops, cafes and malls.
They are often forced to use the road for their travel, as walkways and pavements in Malaysia are frequently not disabled friendly. They can be high, without slops for access, and the surfaces can even be hazardous and dangerous for movement of wheelchairs and other personal mobility devices due to broken and unrepaired surfaces, as well as ongoing construction. A road surface is likely to be safer.
The reality is that many cities in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, are not pedestrian friendly, much less disabled-accessible. Anyone who is a frequent user of the pavements and walkways in the Klang Valley, can empathise and agree that even in places like Brickfields, the disabled would not be able to easily use their wheelchairs on pedestrian pavements easily even if they wanted to.
Ironically, the new legislation appears to even ban the use of these personal mobility aids from using pedestrian crossings and overhead walkways which are equipped with lifts and designed to be disabled friendly.
Mobility aids are devices designed to help people who have problems with mobility. Usually, people who have disabilities due to medical conditions or severe injuries, or older adults choose to use mobility aids which include manual and motorised wheelchairs, and mobility scooters.
These devices enable personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities. They reduce pain, and increase confidence and self-esteem.
The use of powered or motorised wheelchairs in particular improves daily routines, reduces the dependence on caregivers, and increases the ability to engage in mobility related activities and social participation.
Azrul Mohd Khalib is CEO of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.