Monday, 18 July 2011

Letter to the Editor: The Disabled Continue to be Marginalised at Sporting Events


Malaysia may be a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and may have enacted the Persons With Disabilities Act 2008 (Act 685), but in reality, our laws, society and institutions fail to commit to the genuine inclusion of disabled individuals in all aspects of living.

At no time was this more evident to me than during the Liverpool FC vs Malaysian XI match on July 16, when I was not allowed to park at the designated parking space for the disabled, or even allowed to approach the entrance to allow my disabled friend to disembark from my car. Our polite request for access to the parking space for the disabled was dismissed by the traffic police stationed around the National Stadium, and they told us in no uncertain terms that the disabled was not allowed to park in the stadium car park as the entire parking area was reserved for VVIPs and members of royalty. The event management company personnel and traffic police shrugged off our questions with an air of impatience and insensitivity, and the unspoken message seemed to be that the disabled should know their own limitations and should not have come to watch a sport that they could not participate in.

We ended up having to park over 1km away in front of the Astro headquarters and had to walk to the National Stadium. My friend was exhausted and in considerable pain and distress when we finally arrived. To make matters worse, the designated seating area for the disabled was occupied by able-bodied spectators and I spent most of the match requesting the other spectators not to push my friend or stand in front of her. During our walk back to our car after the match, we witnessed another spectator in a wheelchair attempt to manoeuvre his wheelchair along the uneven sidewalks and road shoulder as motorcyclists rode dangerously close to his wheelchair.

The official website of the National Sports Complex boasts of designated parking spaces and seating areas for the disabled, but this is mere tokenism as there is no sincere effort to ensure that the disabled have reasonable access to the said infrastructure, not when the disabled are barred from parking at the disabled parking zone and have to struggle to get a seat at the disabled seating area.

Malaysian society tries to pass itself off as a compassionate one, but it is, in essence, feudalistic. When the need to impress the wealthy and powerful in our society overrides the safety needs and basic rights of our disabled citizens, we know we have a lot of soul-searching to do.



Cat-from-Sydney said...

OMG! That is so mean of the organisers. Hey...the disabled bought full priced tickets like everybody else and deserve equal if not better treatment. For all we know, those VVIPs and Royalties didn't even pay for theirs. har har har *angry laughs*

Unknown said...

Ee Lynn, you champion the disabled so superbly. Thanks for highlighting the sad experience. BAD! BAD! Shame on the authorities for not accommodating a very reasonable and within your rights request. Can they not feel, not see???

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-from-Sydney,
That's exactly it! My friend is a taxpaying, contributing member of society, and a lawyer, volunteer and animal rescuer as well. We paid for our tickets. The way they treated us that day because she is differently-abled filled me with pain and anger. It hurt so much to see my friend have to undergo so much pain, discomfort and indignity, just because the event organisers wanted to stroke the egos of a few lazy wealthy people who couldn't care if they were depriving the disabled of a parking space.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Keats,
One young traffic policeman told us honestly that they were not given any instructions on where the disabled were supposed to go. Says a lot, doesn't it? The police can get highly specific instructions to attack protestors with water cannons and tear gas, but not basic instructions on where to direct the disabled to.

Ellen Whyte said...

Speechless. Except for the swearing which is not appropriate for this U-listed blog. GRUMPH!!!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

If you are speechless, Ellen, imagine how my friend and I felt that day. And I can only imagine how that man in the wheelchair felt, with the motorcyclists practically shaving the top layer off his wheelchair. We felt hurt, sad, angry, disappointed, bitter, resentful and incredulous, all at the same time.