Disabled-friendly facilities in poor condition

Asia-Pacific, October 6 2011

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Disabled-friendly facilities that are in a deplorable state tell a sad tale of apathy.

I DON’T know what it is about hypermarkets and me lately, folks, but it seems that every time I visit one, the episode turns into a nightmare.

Last weekend, I visited a hypermarket in a hip and happening part of Petaling Jaya in Selangor. I regret to say that there was another ugly confrontation.

The only access to the hypermarket was via escalators on the ground floor. However, there were clear signs to indicate that wheelchairs were barred from using the escalators for safety reasons.

This is a good move by the management as not many people who handle wheelchairs are aware of the dangers of manoeuvring them on a moving platform.

It is easy to lose control of the wheelchair no matter how strong your helper may be. The user could also lose his grip and fall off the wheelchair.

However, what the hypermarket failed to provide was a suitable alternative access for shoppers with disabilities.

All they had were the goods lifts. These were two very large lifts that could even fit a small car. The lifts were in a decrepit condition. There were rude and explicit graffiti on the walls; it was extremely undignified and embarrassing to anyone who read them whilst using the lift.

The entrance from the goods lift into the store was blocked by dozens of shopping trolleys that made access virtually impossible for wheelchair-users. The area was also smelly and filthy.

I was appalled that any management could subject disabled shoppers to such indignity.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, it did. The wheelchair-friendly toilets were blocked by large cleaning trolleys loaded with mops and detergent.

A wheelchair user would need superhuman strength to move the trolleys. The fact that none of the cleaners or staff members offered to help was even more telling.

The sliding door inside was so badly damaged that it looked like it was going to collapse at any time. There was faeces everywhere. The toilet seats and floor were black with dirt and stank to high heaven. The sink and grab bars were broken.

It was obvious that this was not an overnight incident; it has probably been that way for weeks or possibly months.

I asked for the top management to get an explanation, and was given the runaround. All I got eventually was a very weak apology followed by a string of excuses on why things were the way they were at  disability-friendly toilets.

How sad that a building with signs like wheelchair parking, disabled-friendly loo and disability access pasted on the outside, could be just the opposite on the inside.

Shocking situations like these make us wonder how people with disabilities are valued in our society.

Shouldn’t it be everyone’s priority to ensure that facilities for disability are well-maintained at all times and ready for use?

If not, what’s the point of having disabled-friendly facilities when the disabled cannot benefit from them?

Source: http://thestar.com.my

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