Saturday June 27, 2009

Jalan Gasing project to test viability of barrier-free access



THE controversial pedestrian pavement along Jalan Gasing is a pilot project for barrier-free access in Petaling Jaya.

Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor Anthony Thanasayan said during a press conference at the MBPJ headquarters that the upgrading of the pavement was done so that it could be used as a test case and would be integrated in all future pavements.

MBPJ town planning department director Sharipah Marhaini Syed Ali said that Malaysia was still lacking when it comes to creating barrier-free environments, even when compared to cities like Bangkok and Manila.

“The project in Jalan Gasing is to come up with a typical model for our engineering department and for developers to be used for future developments,” said Sharipah.

Several residents association chairmen in the city had recently questioned the council for spending ratepayers’ money to upgrade the pavement that had been changed barely seven months ago.

“I am saddened and shocked that they made such remarks. It questions whether these chairmen should be leaders or not. They must have a broader view. Their comments are prejudiced and reveals an intolerance for people with different needs.

“The time has ended when the disabled’s needs are not being taken into consideration. I’ve seen elderly people walking on the roads instead of the pavements so this was done to immediately address the problem,” said Thanasayan.

A MBPJ engineering department representative said that the pavement along the 500m stretch of road was upgraded at a cost of RM180,000, including railings installation and covering up of the drains.

Thanasayan also said that the approach of conducting studies to find out the number of disabled people in an area was outdated and added that it was a misconception that the disabled were only centred in one place.

Back in 2000, the then Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) had chosen Section 52 (PJ New Town) as a pilot project to build more disabled-friendly facilities.

“Of course making the city accessible would incur costs. Many infrastructure built before 2000 did not take into account the needs of the disabled,” said Sharipah.

She said that all present applications for development must go through the OKU (disabled) facilities committee chaired by Thanasayan before being approved at the One-Stop-Centre.

Thanasayan said that the council would integrate the barrier-free concept into the state-initiated Clean Zone programme, where Section 52 has been identified as the zone to be spruced up.

MBPJ environmental health assistant director Dr Abdul Ghalib Sulaiman said that 500 additional litter bins would be placed around the city, with the main focus on Section 52.

“To turn Section 52 into a clean zone, we will work together with restaurant owners. Enforcement will be stepped up in the area to make sure that operators adhere to the guidelines,” said Dr Ghalib.